Dr. Oz’s Quackery Quantified

It’s well-known at this point that Dr. Oz is a fraud, a con man getting rich by peddling bullshit and lies to his credulous audience. But now we can actually quantify that because a group of researchers took a few dozen episodes of his show, compiled the health claims and determined that about half of them are bunk.

Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal examined the health claims showcased on 40 randomly selected episodes of the two most popular internationally syndicated health talk shows, The Dr Oz Show and The Doctors.

They identified 479 recommendations from The Dr Oz Show and 445 recommendations from The Doctors, finding that on average, each episode contained about a dozen bits of health wisdom.

By randomly selecting the episodes, instead of cherry picking the worst offenders, their findings give us a true picture of the quality of the health claims that are being made.

And what they found was disappointing but not exactly surprising: about half of the health recommendations had either no evidence behind them or they actually contradicted what the best-available science tells us. That means about half of what these TV doctors say to their millions of satellite patients is woo, and potentially harmful and wasteful woo at that.

Here’s an obvious question I keep asking: How the hell does Dr. Oz still have a job? He is a professor at Columbia University and the director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and he is now getting rich lying about medicine to millions of people. Why hasn’t he been fired? Why hasn’t he been stripped of his license to practice?

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  • Kengi

    Because he’s popular at the press-the-flesh fundraising events for those organizations?

  • D. C. Sessions

    Why hasn’t he been fired?

    Tenure. Lots of donations. Notice that the “Complementary Medicine Program” is his creation and brings in LOTS of donations from the usual sources of funding for woo.

    Why hasn’t he been stripped of his license to practice?

    Because he’s a competent (if aging[1]) plumber.

    [1] Cardiovascular surgery is incredibly demanding on things like hand strength. In a chat with the surgeon who tried to keep my father’s heart working after a massive MI, he said that most retire from surgery and into planning, training, and such at around the age of forty. One reason they make so much while they can — it’s a short career.

  • John Pieret

    How the hell does Dr. Oz still have a job? He is a professor at Columbia University …

    Tenure?

    and the director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital

    Note the “Complementary Medicine Program”? That’s woo by definition. It’s not a bug in his employment but a feature.

    Why hasn’t he been stripped of his license to practice?

    Doctors rarely lose their licenses when the commit actual malpractice on a formal patient. Passing out woo on the TV where there is no doctor-patient relationship ain’t gonna make a ripple with the Medical Board, even if they are embarrassed by him (which does not go without saying).

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    So you’re saying the doctors on TV aren’t as good as my actual doctor? Even soap opera doctors?

  • Pianoman, Church of the Golden Retriever

    the morons who tune into his show are keeping this douchebag on the air.

  • http://atheist-faq.com Jasper of Maine

    There’s some States where laywers cannot legally give legal advice to someone who isn’t a paid client. It’d be nice if that applied to medicine.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    @Jasper #6 – The same holds true with being a financial adviser or stockbroker. When I was in the industry, I was licensed in just Washington State; I was therefore forbidden by federal law and industry regulation from giving my mother financial advice because she lived in California.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Pianoman, Church of the Golden Retriever “the morons who tune into his show are keeping this douchebag on the air.”

    I opened for Douchebag & The Morons, during their national tour back in ’82.

  • Pianoman, Church of the Golden Retriever

    @modus

    yeah, now I remember! you did that song “Love You Like a Douche”.

  • magistramarla

    I used to work for a midwife. I know what you guys think of midwives, but my friend used to give much, much better advice to her pregnant and nursing clients than the gynecologist on The Doctors. I used to watch it occasionally just to shout at my TV when their tame gynecologist dispensed her so-called wisdom.

  • Sastra

    The same desire to respect people’s ‘deeply held’ religious and spiritual beliefs also creeps into what people sincerely believe about health and ‘healing’ — especially when these two categories overlap, as they usually do in alternative medicine. As Orac has pointed out, the Central Dogma of alt med is wishful thinking, the dualistic and faith-fueled belief that the Mind has power over the material world. Energy healing, homeopathy, and many other modalities are either vitalistic or have supernatural elements in them. There’s also a common assumption that personal experience, anecdotes, and stories are a better method to find Truth and What Works than science is. Try it for yourself and see; believe in yourself.

    So we’re dealing with the same attitude of Accomodationism as in religion. Telling people their favorite form of woo is ‘wrong’ is considered bigoted and intolerant. I suspect that Oz is coasting by not just on money, power, popularity, and tenure, but on the deference people automatically convey (or damn well better convey) towards the Spiritual.

  • freemage

    Modusoperandi says

    December 19, 2014 at 11:52 am

    So you’re saying the doctors on TV aren’t as good as my actual doctor? Even soap opera doctors?

    Well, no, of course not. That said, the soap opera doctor probably IS better than Dr. Oz, and even the ones that routinely sleep with their patients have better ethics.

  • Matt G

    I wonder what his colleagues at Columbia think of him, and whether they would ever state it publicly.

  • latveriandiplomat

    @13. I doubt they really think of him as a colleague. I doubt that he attends faculty meetings or teaches regular classes. I suspect he knows the Dean(s) better than he knows any of his fellow faculty members, because he and the Dean(s) are in the money business, not the medical education business.

  • melaleuca1000

    What ever happened to the Hypocratic oath? Aren’t there any ethical standards applied to members of your medical and professional associations?