Dr. Oz goes to Washington

Dr. Mehmet Oz

Last Friday, when I initially heard that Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill called on famed TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz to testify before Congress concerning bogus weight loss medicines, I was angry. It appeared that Oz was being called for his perceived expertise, since he comes across as a seemingly nice and trustful medical figure on daytime television.

Imagine my relief upon hearing that, instead, the Senate panel grilled Oz concerning his repeated recommendations of various alternative medicines, such as weight loss and faith healing remedies. Unfortunately, the Senate panel itself has no legal authority over Oz, and thus, giving him no reason to own up to his previous questionable recommendations. Instead, he insisted that he will continue to recommend products that he believes really work.

Belief in a product is fine, following vigorous testing that properly demonstrates evidence of its effectiveness. The scientific community does not operate via leap of faith. Dr. Oz has recommended products that do not live up to their claims after such testing. Forget about responsibility — to me, that is just plain deceptive and its hard for me to imagine such behavior is spawned by pure ignorance on his part.

Even if you have never seen Dr. Oz on television before, how would you feel if you knew your mother or grandmother not only watched him, but thought highly of him? The problem with this guy is that he surrounds some of his flim-flam advice with legitimate, if not practical, information. And since he appears to be trustworthy in many areas, people are more likely to believe him when he does recommend something that is not real medicine.

That makes him dangerous.

The cat’s been out of the bag on Oz for years. Phil Plait, the science blogger better known as the “Bad Astronomer,” is one of many within the skeptic community that has been on Oz for years now. Another critic, St. Louis radio host Paul Harris discussed how Oz is dangerous, last year on his radio show — hear that podcast here.

While some of the questionable recommendations by Oz may not directly hurt people, it is irresponsible to steer potentially vulnerable people towards a direction that will ultimately lead to a dead end. He is giving his viewers false hope. That’s not how a responsible doctor, or anyone from the science community, operates.

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