The New Yorker puts Dr. Oz’s credibility under a microscope

January 29th, 2013 by | Permalink

Dr. Oz with FLOTUS Michelle Obama. Photo via ‘Dr. Oz Show’.

The New Yorker magazine took a critical look at Dr. Oz, the celebrity surgeon who touts alternative medicine along with conventional, in their February issue which hit newsstands on Monday.

Dr. Oz, the calming heart surgeon and host of “The Dr. Oz Show”, has been touted by many celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, who produces his show and First Lady Michelle Obama along with his loyal fan base as the doctor who provides common sense approaches to health as well as “miracle” cures, alternative medicine and homeopathic approaches.

The New Yorker examines if Dr. Mehmet Oz, 52, is doing justice to the scientific method and evidenced based medicine, which requires evidence based on peer reviewed studies and research or whether his claims are modern day snake oils.

Dr. Oz has long promoted unproven treatments and made non-scientific claims which contrast with his long career as an established and impressive cardiologist. Oz has often referred to conventional medicine as not enough and too heavily relied upon among medical professionals who think they have all the answers when they don’t.

Among refuted claims Dr. Oz has espoused include what some may consider fear mongering about arsenic level in apple juice, questioning the safety of genetically modified foods (which The New Yorker points out, was discredited by scientists in France and the U.S.), miracle “Hollywood” diets, Reiki therapy (which claims that spiritual and physical”energy” can be transferred from one person to another), hypnosis, psychic interventions and energy fields.

Although Oz seems to take a less holistic approach than his wife, Dr. Lisa LeMole, who denounces many vaccinations, doesn’t eat meat and is a Reiki Master herself, Dr. Mehmet Oz says at home, he defers to his wife’s health choices for his children.

Some of Dr. Oz’s medical peers aren’t amused by Dr. Oz’s approach and fear he may be misleading people in to believing some of these integrative approaches are rooted in science.

As a TV doctor who still performs heart surgeries every Thursday, Dr. Oz has been named by Esquire magazine as “one of the most accomplished celebrity doctor(s) in history.”

“The Dr. Oz Show” gets, on average, four million viewers per episode.

The New Yorker sums up some of Dr. Oz’s criticism in the following:

Oz has been criticized by scientists for relying on flimsy or incomplete data, distorting the results, and wielding his vast influence in ways that threaten the health of anyone who watches the show.

If alternative medicine actually works, say many scientists, why not allow it the scrutiny of credible research and study and allow the results to speak for themselves?

Dr. Eric Rose, a professor of surgery at the Mount Sinai medical school and researcher at a biotechnology firm says that Dr. Oz appears to enjoy the attention of celebrity a great deal.

Rose went on to say:

I want to stress that Mehmet is a fine surgeon.

He is intellectually unbelievably gifted. But I think if there is any criticism you can apply to some of the stuff he talks about it is that there is no hierarchy of evidence. There rarely is with the alternatives. They have acquired a market, and that drives so much. At times, I think Mehmet does feed into that.

When The New Yorker columnist Michael Specter asked Rose if he would refer a patient to Dr. Oz, given that he works only once a week, Rose reluctantly responded:

No, I wouldn’t. In many respects, Mehmet is now an entertainer. And he’s great at it. People learn a lot, and it can be meaningful in their lives. But that is a different job. In medicine, your baseline need has to be for a level of evidence that can lead to your conclusions. I don’t know how else you do it. Sometimes Mehmet will entertain wacky ideas—particularly if they are wacky and have entertainment value.

Other critics, such as David Gorski, an associate professor of surgery at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and Editor of Science-Based Medicine expressed his concern by saying:

Oz has a huge bully pulpit, with the entire Oprah empire behind him. He can’t simply dispense with facts he doesn’t find convenient.

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