April 24, 2015

Dr. Oz Defends Himself on the “Today" Show. But I prefer John Oliver’s Take on the Wizard of Oz.

Dr. Mehmed Oz -- TV host and heart surgeon  -- has been getting a lot of flak recently. I've been critical of him on this blog, mainly for jumping on Dr. Mary Newport’s bandwagon to support the unsubstantiated claims that coconut oil can cure Alzheimer's. You'll find other posts critical of the TV celebrity; just enter "Dr. Oz" in the search box at right.

I've not been alone in criticizing him. Oz got grilled last year by a Senate Commerce subcommittee for promoting dubious miracle weight-loss supplements on his popular show.

Dr. Oz has also received lots of well-deserved recognition as one of the nation's leading heart surgeons. He was hired by Columbia University in 2001 as a professor in its Department of Surgery because of his skills as a physician. He is now vice chairman of the department.

Last week, a group of ten prominent physicians sent a sharp letter to Columbia's Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine, writing that Oz "has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine." The letter said Oz had "misled and endangered" the public by touting unproven remedies for serious ailments.

During an interview this morning with Matt Lauer on NBC's Today show, Oz expressed confidence that his TV show will outlast the current controversy. 

He defends using words like "radical" and "miracle."
I'm proud of all those words. There's only one time that I've not been proud of and that's the understandable frustration that has been expressed about weight-loss supplements. I wish I could take back the words I said about them. This is a flawed area with lots of fraud both in the research and in products and we no longer talk about them. I haven't talked about them in a year.

I wish Lauer had been better prepared with specific examples of Oz's other exaggerated, unsubstantiated claims. 

Dr. Oz and the Media
A celebrity, Oz naturally attracts lots of media attention. In 2013, The New Yorker published a fair and balanced profile of Oz with this subtitle: "Is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good?"

While I wouldn’t call it "fair and balanced," here's John Oliver's take on Oz:

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