Dr. Oz Rebuked by Medical Professionals

For a long time, TV personally and Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz has gotten little criticism for his sensationalist and often junk science-laden advice. Finally, members of Congress from both parties called him to the table—asking him to appear at congressional hearings related to fraudulent claims about dietary supplements and other products. A largely unapologetic Oz said ,“I actually do personally believe in the items I talk about on the show. … I recognize they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact but nevertheless I would give my audience the advice I give my family all the time, and I have given my family these products.”

So basically he admits there’s no science behind many of his claims, but still describes the products as “miraculous” to hopeful consumers who look to him as an authority. And even after his embarrassing rebuke by members of Congress, Dr. Oz has not changed his tune. In addition to continued quackery advice about food, fad diets, and dietary supplements, he demonizes technologies, such as agrochemicals and biotechnology necessary for farmers to produce an affordable food supply.

But the best way to police fraud in an industry is for the industry to self-regulate. This week, Dr. Henry Miller of the Hoover Institution and nine other medical professionals launched such an effort, sending a letter to the Dean at Columbia University’s Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine where Dr. Oz is on the faculty and holds an administrative position in the University’s Department of Surgery. They want the university to rebuke Dr. Oz as well.

Whether the University will do anything may be beside the point. Miller and his colleagues have set an example for everyone in the public health sphere. We would hope that more medical professionals speak up, along with other individuals with an interest in public health, such as dieticians, public health officials, and true consumer advocates. 

The text of the letter follows below.

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 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.

Sincerely yours,
Henry I. Miller, M.D.
Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy
& Public Policy
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Scott W. Atlas, M.D.
David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Jack Fisher, M.D.
Professor of Surgery (emeritus)
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

Shelley Fleet, M.D.
Longwood, FL

Gordon N. Gill, M.D.
Dean (emeritus) of Translational Medicine
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

Michael H. Mellon, M.D.
Pediatric Allergist
San Diego, CA

GIlbert Ross, M.D.
President (Acting) and Executive Director
American Council on Science and Health
New York, NY

Samuel Schneider, M.D.
Princeton, NJ

Glenn Swogger Jr. M.D.
Director of the Will Menninger Center for Applied Behavioral Sciences (retired)The Menninger Foundation
Topeka, KS

Joel E. Tepper, M.D.
Hector MacLean Distinguished Professor of Cancer Research
Dept of Radiation Oncology
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

[Emphases added]