Some consequences for Dr. Oz s flim-flam medical advice

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Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 2.59.13 PMWhile hardly commensurate with his unscientific and potentially harmful medical advice, Dr. Oz has received two negative reactions to his unprofessional behavior on his TV show over the past 24 hours.

Yesterday, word spread quickly that his former mentor and the entertainment force most responsible for glamorizing his brand of medical nonsense, none other than Oprah Winfrey herself, had at least to some extent parted ways with Oz: his radio show will no longer be heard on her network. Not to worry, certainly: Dr. Oz will not need to take out any mortgages to pay off his debts, and he will likely be bombarded with other offers, since he attracts a huge audience wherever he goes.

Now, in today s NYTimes, a letter to the editor entitled Concerns About Dr. Oz, written by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, Chairman of the Dept. of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center (and thus a faculty colleague of Oz), expressed a reasoned opinion about the ramifications of his on-screen shenanigans.

There is no point in summarizing this brief but intense letter; here is the essence of it:

The concern by fellow physicians over Dr. Oz s approach to health care as demonstrated on his television show stems from the fact that physicians and medical researchers are held to standards that require not just honest communication but also credibility based on fact.

Boundaries do indeed need to be pushed, and consumers do need to do homework, but recommendations need to be rooted in scientific evidence and medical facts.

Since his foray into daytime television, by way of Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Oz has strayed from the strict standards characteristic of the medical field and particularly academic institutions.

You can t have it both ways: You can t have the credibility of an elite academic institution and not be held to its standards.

ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross, who has gone on record as being critical of Oz s frequent flouting of sound medical advice to his millions of viewers (Dr. Oz Gets Dissected), as we here at ACSH have also done numerous times, had this comment: Speaking for the entire ACSH team, I was gratified and relieved to see an actual comment from an actual faculty colleague of Dr. Oz at last, given the media maelstrom that has surrounded this topic over the past 2 weeks, marked by a deafening silence from CUMC. Well, not exactly: at one point the spokesman for the esteemed medical center opined that Dr. Oz was within his free-speech rights when rendering commentary on his immensely popular TV show. Today s letter by the Chairman of Psychiatry puts the focus where it should be: not on Oz s First Amendment rights, never an issue, but his professional and ethical responsibility to discuss medical care based on sound science, not magical cure-alls and miracle fat-burners, etc. Furthermore, Dr. Lieberman reminded Oz and everyone reading his cogent letter that the prestige and gravitas, if you will, of Columbia University and its medical center were besmirched by Oz s flights of fancy; I d add that some of his vast audience have likely been harmed by some of his advisories, a clear violation of his oath, primum non nocere: first, do no harm.