Doctors Want Dr. Oz Out of Columbia Medical School

In addition to being the host of a TV show on which he routinely promotes all manner of fraudulent quackery, Dr. Oz is also the vice chairman of the surgery department at Columbia University Medical School. A group of doctors has written to Columbia demanding that he be removed from that position. Here’s the text of that letter:

Lee Goldman, M.D.

Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine

Columbia University

Dear Dr. Goldman:

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 judgments [sic] 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.

Here’s Dr. Oz’ totally substance-free response:

On Friday, Oz defended himself.

“I bring the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves,” Oz said in a statement, according to USA Today. The newspaper reported that the statement was released by a “Dr. Oz Show” representative. “We provide multiple points of view, including mine, which is offered without conflict of interest,” the statement continued. “That doesn’t sit well with certain agendas which distort the facts.”

You promote outright frauds like miracle weight-loss cures. You lie to people about treatments that have been proven to be ineffective. The school’s response is equally absurd:

Columbia University Medical Center spokesman Doug Levy wrote in a response to Miller and the others: “As I am sure you understand and appreciate, Columbia is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”

Miller responded to Levy that “freedoms end where patient safety begins, and Oz’s promotion of worthless products that might have side effects and that delay patients’ seeking safe and effective therapies threatens public safety.”

Exactly right. This has nothing to do with academic freedom. What he’s doing is a clear violation of the Hippocratic oath and is completely unethical. He should be removed from that position immediately.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Chiroptera

    …Columbia is committed to the principle of academic freedom….

    Actually, “academic freedom” doesn’t mean that things that have been shown to be factually false continue to be accepted as an “alternative viewpoint” well beyond the time when they were shown to be false.

    In fact, quite the opposite; the whole point of academic freedom is so that rationally derived, empirically supported facts can drive superstition and blatant falsehood out of the marketplace of ideas.

    When financial or political considerations lead to an artificially “teaching the controversy” or artificially maintaining a “diversity of opinion,” then the whole point of academic freedom becomes lost.

  • John Pieret

    IIRC, Oz also runs an “alternative medicine” program at Columbia that brings in big bucks. That’s what this is all about as far as the Medical Center is concerned.

  • bryanfeir

    Not to mention, as Orac mentioned Friday and today:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/04/17/americas-quack-dissected-yet-again/

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/04/20/a-publicity-stunt-against-dr-oz-threatens-to-backfire-spectacularly/

    On top of being a bad idea just because it’s a bad idea to open the doors to threatening Universities to fire tenured faculty, many of the signers of the letter in question are people working for industry operations like the Hoover Institute, and the one concrete example of Dr. Oz’s science denial is his anti-GMO stance. This all left this letter wide open to being dismissed as the actions of active industry shills (which it quite possibly is) and is likely to result in a lot of splash damage against people who actually have valid arguments against Dr. Oz.

    Dr. Oz is a person who has obviously chosen being famous over being right, and he should be censured; but this particular letter is absolutely the wrong way to do it when he should have been attacked on other fronts. Such as the fact that his ‘green coffee bean project’ was a clinical trial with human subjects done without any IRB approval, in violation of Columbia University’s rules. THAT should have been the leading attack, not this stupid thing about GMOs.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    @bryanfeir:

    Did you see a threat in that letter? I didn’t.

  • grumpyoldfart

    Dr Oz is in it for the money. Maybe his supporters at the University are getting a cut – hence their weak response.

  • bryanfeir

    They said that his presence on the faculty was ‘unacceptable’, and listed their own professional and industry connections. They may not have explicitly listed consequences, but I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to consider that a threat, however vague and indirect. ‘Nice department you got there… be a shame if people we know decided not to help fund it anymore.’

    If it’s not a threat, then there was really no point in the letter in the first place.

  • Al Dente

    bryanfeir @3

    many of the signers of the letter in question are people working for industry operations like the Hoover Institute

    Here’s an article quoting the letter and giving the signatories. Other than the Hoover Institute guys, none of the physicians work for “industry operations.” They’re mainly academics or in private practice.

  • bryanfeir

    And, according to Orac, two of the others are associated with the American Council on Science and Health, which has been cheerleading for pesticide companies and e-cig companies.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Al Dente @ # 7: Other than the Hoover Institute guys, none of the physicians work for “industry operations.”

    Au contraire, several of the other signatories work for/with the American Council on Science and Health, a long-time PR front which now (and for decades past) shills for the tobacco industry. See the discussion at Orac’s recent post, in which he apparently comes around to the view of multiple commenters that this letter was written as a publicity stunt for ASCH.

  • http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com SC (Salty Current)

    And it should be noted that being an academic or in private practice in no way precludes being a corporate shill.*

    Case in point 1: Glenn Hubbard, Columbia

    Case in point 2: Psychiatry Department (…etc.), University of Minnesota

    *I’m not saying anything about the signers of this particular letter, about whom I know nothing.

  • Phillip Hallam-Baker

    Come on, Berkley has a self confessed war criminal on their faculty and can’t do anything to get rid of him.

    Yoo is not going to do anything that will give the university cause to fire him, neither will Oz.

  • bryanfeir

    If Columbia actually wanted to get rid of him, his tenure wouldn’t protect him from the fact that he violated Columbia’s Human Research Protection Program by running a clinical trial without any review board approval:

    https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-great-and-powerful-oz-versus-science-and-research-ethics/

    That said, it’s quite obvious Columbia is more interested in the money he brings in than in his ethical violations, and figure they can skirt around any possible federal inquiry.

  • Childermass

    I don’t see that he views (or maybe what he says his views are) for GMO is relevant to his job as a surgeon. I can see going after his job for malpractice as a doctor especially when it is clear he lied to those wanting medical advice. But GMO stuff is not relevant to his employment means that it should not be grounds for being disciplined or fired from his job.