Dr. Oz

From the Feb 4th issue of the New Yorker, a profile of Dr. Mehmet Oz, entitled “The Operator,” (he is discussing the presence of a guest “authority” on his show who explicitly rejects the tenets of science)

“If I don’t talk to him I have abdicated my responsibility, because the currency that I deal in is trust, and it is trust that has been given to me by Oprah and by Columbia University, and by an audience that has watched over six hundred shows.

I was still puzzled. “Either data works or it doesn’t I said. “Science is supposed to answer, or at least address, those questions.  Surely you don’t think that all information is created equal?”

Oz sighed. “Medicine is a very religious experience,” he said.  “I have my religion and you have yours.  It become difficulty for us to agree on what we think works since so much of it is in the eye of the beholder.  Data is rarely clean”  All facts come with a point of view.  But his spin on it–that one can simply choose those which make sense, rather than data that happen to be try was chilling. (Ya think?) “You find the arguments that support your data,”he said, and it’s my fact versus your fact.”

I don’t watch Dr. Oz so am barely aware of what his schtick is.  But apparently, he endorses supplements and the like on the basis of shakey, barely there evidence.  Most likely little harm is done with the supplements, but his attitude towards research is pretty scary.  Yes, there are a lot of aspects to health and healing that we don’t understand, but if you are a bridge between traditional medicine and alternative medicine, you have be even MORE careful with your conclusions and recommendations.  At one point in the article it says that if an alternative therapy has evidence behind it, it is no longer an alternative, it is medicine.  I am hopeful that acupuncture is nearing that threshold and will soon be seen as medicine with a capital M.

As the author points out

“By freely mixing alternatives with proven therapies, Oz makes it nearly impossible for the viewer of his show to assess the impact of either; the process just diminishes the value of science.”

Dr. Rose, a famous heart transplant surgeon said when asked whether he would trust Dr. Oz to do surgery on him, since he only operates one day a week.

” No, he said.  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.”