A few days ago I read about the letter. You know, the one asking that Columbia University fire Dr Oz, America’s (and Oprah’s) latest beloved TV doctor. Unlike Dr Phil, Mehmet Oz is a medical doctor – a very accomplished cardiothoracic surgeon who also happened to put some stock in alternative therapies like reiki. A few years ago, Oz was bunched together with RealAge founder Michael Roizen – they wrote several successful YOU books together – but Roizen isn’t nearly as photogenic and has faded into media oblivion.
Since then Oz has gotten deeper into what some call alternative medicine and others call quackery. At what seemed to be a damning moment, he was criticized by Senator Claire McCaskill during a committee hearing (video) because of his weight loss claims. He survived, however.
Anyway, ten other medical doctors cosigned a letter by one Henry Miller (no, not that one) to the effect that Dr Oz was giving the medical profession an even worse name than Jim Cramer gave screaming tv market analysts.
I am writing to you on behalf of myself and the undersigned colleagues below, all of whom are distinguished physicians.
We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery.
As described here and here, as well as in other publications, Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops. Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.
Thus, Dr. Oz is guilty of either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgements about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both. Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz’s presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.
To that first line I would have added, “especially me.”
As discussed on Respectful Insolence at Science Blogs, many of the undersignatories had dubious claims to being pure scientists themselves. Some were climate change deniers, others seemed to be in the pocket of industry.
Now it seems that it all comes down, again, to the struggle over Genetically Modified Organisms.
In, A publicity stunt against Dr. Oz threatens to backfire spectacularly, Orac notes that among his many offenses, Dr Oz thinks GMOs are not harmful but should be labeled.
Dr. Miller is a huge booster of GMOs, having served as the founding director of the FDA Office of Biotechnology, and you can bet that it didn’t pass unnoticed that what provoked Miller to write his letter was not so much Dr. Oz’s promotion of quackery but rather a specific fear mongering segment on The Dr. Oz Show about GMOs, in particular the non-browning apple.
I’ve noticed that questioning GMOs is frowned upon in science. Even Bill Nye, America’s favorite science guy (not counting Bob Newhart) took a lot of flak on science forums because he had expressed some skepticism about GMOs on his old Eyes of Nye show. (Nye recently recanted and has become a fan of GMOs so all is well with the force.)
Anyway Orac is really worried that this will reflect badly on GMOs. I’m no fan of Oz or GMOs, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.