Respectful Insolence

Yesterday, I concluded that Dr. Mehmet Oz’s journey to the Dark Side was continuing apace. After all, he had pulled the classic “bait and switch” of “alternative” medicine by allowing a man who calls himself Yogi Cameron to use his television show to co-opt the perfectly science-based modalities of diet and exercise as being somehow “alternative.” Like all good promoters of woo, whether you call it “alternative” medicine, “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), or “integrative medicine” (IM), Yogi Cameron used diet and exercise as the thin edge of the wedge, behind which followed nonsense such as Ayurvedic tongue diagnosis and Pancha Karma, the latter of which is in essence Indian “detox” involving purging and enemas, among other things. Of course, also like a good propagandist trying to popularize woo, Yogi Cameron left out the “hard” parts (like the enemas) and stuck to the softer side of Pancha Karma, such as the nasal irrigation and the “detox diet.”

To abuse my Star Wars metaphors yet again, if the featuring of Yogi Cameron on an episode of his show was the equivalent of Anakin Skywalker taking revenge on the Tusken raiders for having killed his mother Shmi, yesterday’s episode was Anakin cum Darth Vader hitting the Jedi temple and slaughtering the younglings. In other words, it definitively marks the point of no return, the point at which Dr. Oz’s journey to the Dark Side is now complete. All he needs is a Darth Vader mask. Or maybe a mask of Samuel Hahnemann. Or something.

The reason yesterday’s episode definitively marks a point of no return for Dr. Oz when it comes to his support for quackery is because he has apparently decided to follow his TV mentor Oprah Winfrey’s example in realizing that faith healing sells. Of course, Dr. Oz, as popular as he is, is not as well established as Oprah. Whereas Oprah got John of God, Dr. Oz gets a second tier faith healer. He gets Dr. Issam Nemeh, who must be very grateful to Dr. Oz, because when you look at his website, you’ll be greeted with a message:

Welcome Dr. Oz Viewers!

Dr. Nemeh has received an overwhelming response from the viewers of the Dr. Oz show. Medical office appointments with Dr. Nemeh are already filled for the next four months.

To add your name to the cancelation list, send an email with your name, phone number, and reason for treatment to appointments@drnemeh.com.

Helpfully, though, humanitarian that he is, Dr. Nemeh is still there for you:

How To See Dr. Nemeh Without a Lengthy Wait

You have the option to attend a Path To Faith Healing Services, at which Dr. Nemeh prays over each attendee. All healing services are held by Path To Faith, a separate organization. Information on upcoming healing services and ticketing can be found on their website.

Dr. Nemeh’s medical office does not provide tickets for healing service. Tickets are only available online through PathToFaith.com

Bummer.

But how did Dr. Nemeh get so popular suddenly? Behold the power of Dr. Oz, who did a completely credulous segment about him entitled, Is this man a faith healer?

In a word, no.

If you recall my discussion of Oprah Winfrey’s utterly credulous treatment of John of God, you might wonder if Dr. Oz did any better. Believe it or not, I actually expected that Dr. Oz’s segment about Dr. Nemeh would be harder for me to deconstruct. Indeed, I expected it to be much harder to deconstruct. Dr. Oz is, after all, a physician, and in the preview for his episode featuring Dr. Nemeh, there was a clip showing Dr. Oz with small pile of charts saying that he had asked to see the medical records of some of Dr. Nemeh’s patients. Given that and given that Dr. Nemeh is a physician himself, I figured that, between the two of them, Drs. Oz and Nemeh would be able to cherry pick cases that would be truly convincing and very difficult to refute. When that happened, I feared I’d be reduced to saying that single anecdotes are not convincing, which, while true, is a relatively hard sell to lay readers without medical training. Even some physicians remain unsatisfied by such an explanation, and it’s not hard to figure out why.

Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for Dr. Oz), I needn’t have worried. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

The first segment begins, as usual, with Dr. Oz introducing the topic. In this case, Dr. Oz breathlessly proclaims this to be a show “unlike any other we have done before” and describes how he has been “fascinated” by this doctor in Cleveland. We’re then shown several people in the audience who claim to have been healed by Dr. Nemeh, who is described as a doctor who doesn’t use drugs or procedures but “heals with his hands.” Dr. Nemeh, we’re told, uses a “high tech form of acupuncture” in his office and the laying on of hands and the use of spirit in churches and meeting halls, all to “heal.” During this voiceover, we’re treated to images of Dr. Nemeh in action, including a paralyzed patient who claims that he’s noticed some movement in his feet since Dr. Nemeh started treating him, a woman who implied that she had her vision restored, and a woman who claims that her multiple sclerosis is gone. Dr. Oz’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Michael Roizen, tells us that he definitely believes “there’s something here,” and Dr. Nemeh himself proclaims that his goal is to “bridge the gap between science and spirituality.” Certainly, there is a receptive audience among Dr. Oz’s studio audience, as Dr. Oz cites a poll of his audience, which reveals that 86% of them believe in the power of faith to heal.

Here’s where Dr. Oz shows a stack of medical records. Quite frankly, to me it looks like a pretty darned small stack. Be that as it may, Dr. Oz then says that he’s had his medical staff investigate the cases and that he’s talked about them with Dr. Roizen. That’s when the interview with Dr. Nemeh begins. Dr. Nemeh, it turns out, is a trained anesthesiologist who sees patients at his office in Rocky River (a suburb of Cleveland) and is known for his faith healing sessions at churches and a variety of other locales. As the interview progressed, it became clear that Dr. Nemeh used a lot of different “alternative medicine” modalities in addition to his “electroacupuncture” (which is, of course, not really acupuncture at all, but transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS) and prayer services. Dr. Nemeh, of course, is also represented not just as the Brave Maverick Doctor but as the reviled Brave Maverick Doctor, with even his family disapproving of what he is doing.

In the next part of the segment, Dr. Oz tells the audience to judge for themselves whether Dr. Nemeh is a faith healer on the basis of the patients of Dr. Nemeh’s whose story he will tell. Of course, as an academic surgeon (which Dr. Oz was for a long time before turning to woo and, given that he is still a professor of surgery at Columbia University, technically still is even though he long ago abandoned science in favor of nonsense), Dr. Oz should know that single anecdotes say at best little or nothing and at worst mislead. The plural of “anecdote,” as we say, is not “data.” Yet anecdotes are what he provides–and then only two of them. No science. No statistics. No scientific studies to be presented along with the human interest anecdotes. Just testimonials and utterly unconvincing cherry picked clinical test results.

First up is a woman named Cathy. Cathy is presented as having a mass in her left lung. Cathy reports that she was “so sick” and that she was coughing up blood. A CT scan is presented, which does show a worrisome mass in the lower lobe of the left lung. We are not informed whether Cathy is a smoker, which would have made me even more worried if I were Cathy’s physician. She describes a two hour visit with Dr. Nemeh, who, she reports, used acupuncture, “infra-ray light,” and prayer to treat her, after which her breathing got much better. Later, a PET scan was ordered, and the mass was gone. The problem with this anecdote, as regular readers of this blog would probably spot right away, is that there was no tissue diagnosis. In the story, it is implied that Cathy had some sort of horrible lung tumor that spontaneously disappeared. Yet her doctor violated the cardinal rule of oncology: He never got a tissue diagnosis. That mass could have had any number of nonmalignant explanations. One thing I’d worry about is tuberculosis, actually. Or it could have been sarcoidosis, or a small pneumonia. In fact, I favor the latter because, when Dr. Oz zeroes in on a close-up, I think I see bronchi going through the mass, which implies consolidation. Whatever it was, if the Cathy’s physician thought it was cancer, he should have gotten a needle biopsy. Indeed, reading between the lines, I wonder if Cathy’s doctor really thought it was cancer. The fact that he ordered a PET scan implied that he thought it might be (although infection can light up on PET as well), but his failure to obtain a biopsy implies that he either wasn’t very sure or didn’t think it was cancer.

All in all, it’s a somewhat confusing case, but there is no evidence whatsoever other than the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy that, just because Cathy got better after seeing Dr. Nemeh, it must have been Dr. Nemeh’s woo that cured her. To be fair, Dr. Oz points out the possibility that the mass might have been infectious in nature, but in reality he didn’t sound as though he really believed that. In fact, he came across as playing Devil’s advocate. Unfortunately, Cathy’s doctor (Dr. Kelly) was not particularly skeptical.

Next up is a woman named Dr. Patricia Kane, who is introduced as having been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 1995 and told that she had less than five years to live. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a disease in which the lungs develop scar tissue, gradually decreasing air exchange. In Dr. Kane’s case, we are informed that she underwent a biopsy that confirmed the diagnosis. We are not really informed whether Dr. Kane has gotten better, but, as you might expect, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a disease with a highly variable rate of progression that can range from a very rapid scarring of the lung and loss of lung function to slow progression even to long periods of time (years) with no progression. Overall, the five year survival is reported to be between 30% and 50%, with this caveat:

Keep in mind that researchers have noted a considerable variation in these life expectancies based on the factors that were mentioned previously.

In other words, Dr. Kane is almost certainly a person who is fortunate enough to be an outlier. Like all such patients who are lucky enough to be outliers and who chose “alternative” medicine, Dr. Kane underwent conventional therapy and Dr. Nemeh’s quackery, and after she did well she attributed her good fortune to the faith healing quackery. Again, Dr. Oz plays the “skeptic” a bit by challenging Dr. Kane gently with the possibility that the diagnosis was mistaken, which, while definitely a possibility, was not the only possibility. More likely is the possibility that, as I mentioned before, Dr. Kane is fortunate enough to be an outlier in a good direction.

Dr. Oz finishes up by interviewing Dr. Jeffrey Redinger. Remember him? He’s the same physician who was taken in by John of God, and he lays down the same sort of barrage of credulous nonsense that he did when he commented on John of God for Oprah Winfrey:

What I think at this point is that we are just not physical beings, we are also spiritual beings, physical beings need oxygen and spiritual beings need love. One research questioned I believe is whether there is a connection between love and healing? That is something that modern science is begining to tiptoe into.

Then we’re treated to what has to be one of the most pathetic faith healings I’ve ever seen. A woman named Mary Beth is brought up on stage. After she states that she has lower back problems that she attributes to arthritis, Dr. Nemeh does his thing. The best Mary Beth could come up with was that she felt “a little” better. From back pain. I don’t know about you, but I was so not impressed by this. Indeed, I was left scratching my head and thinking, “This is the best Dr. Nemeh could come up with?” You know that if Dr. Nemeh could come up with better cases, he would have brought them on the air. For instance, where’s the paralyzed patient who said he was getting some motion back? Why wasn’t his case featured? What about the woman who claims her MS is gone? Why wasn’t she featured? It makes me wonder if the evidence for these patients’ claims is even weaker than the evidence for Dr. Kane or Cathy. Not that any of this stops Dr. Nemeh from proclaiming:

You don’t have to be religious, you don’t have to have faith, you can be an Atheist, what matters is we were talking before about one very important principle, the love that we have. Because the heart of God himself is Love. No you don’t have to have any faith to be healed.

I often wonder how a man as obviously intelligent and well-trained as a surgeon as Dr. Oz can fall for such utter tripe. In his case, I suspect that it’s become more about the fame, the money, and the image that has developed as “America’s doctor.” Whatever the reason, Dr. Oz’s journey to the Dark Side is complete. When Dr. Oz left Oprah, he was but the learner. Now he is the master. The master of woo. Yes, yes, I know the analogy is flawed in that it inappropriately likens Oprah to being one of the good guys (i.e., Obi-Wan Kenobi), but I just love that line.

It’s not just Dr. Oz, though, who suffers from a profound lack of skepticism and critical thinking. It’s many physicians. After all, Cathy’s doctor apparently believed that she had been the beneficiary of some sort of miraculous healing on the basis of the thinnest of thin evidence. And he is a pulmonologist! That so many physicians fall for pseudoscience and faith healing does not speak well of our profession.

Comments

  1. #1 nybgrus
    February 2, 2011

    Just last week I had a lecture on “integrative medicine” at my medical school. I normally don’t attend lectures, but I went to this one and was impressed by the hard line the professor had – stating that he required good data and hard evidence to consider a line of treatment. He even claimed that he wanted to do away with homeopathy, naturopathy, etc by taking all the bits that “work” and “integrating” them into one unified medical treatment modality (i.e. “ours”). After the lecture I went to speak to him and confronted him about the false dichotomy of “CAM” and “western medicine” – he said he agreed but in the current political situation felt that heading an “integrative medicine” group whilst advocating a hard line evidentiary stance was the best way to achieve the end goal – a complete repertoire of evidence based medical practice. But then when I raised the points about acupuncture and reiki he told me that it was interesting to note that “more experienced” practitioners had better outcomes and “more effect” than novice reiki practitioners. He even likened it to an intern versus an attending. He then excused himself saying he had a meeting before I could adequately respond. I am at a loss for what to do about this…

    As if that wasn’t bad enough, this week we got a questionnaire asking us how confident we felt in recommending and employing “nutrition and lifestyle based treatments” as future physicians. Most of the questions were pretty straightforward (i.e. would you tell a fat man to eat better, recommend a more varied diet, counsel a type II diabetic on a lower glycemic index diet, etc) but one of the questions was “Would you feel confident in telling your patient about herbal treatments with PROVEN efficacy – i.e. St. John’s Wort and Echinacea” [emphasis mine]. I checked “no” and circled “echinacea” and wrote about 4 question marks after it!

    Argh!!

  2. #2 prn
    February 2, 2011

    It must have been disappointing to not have seen a first tier psychic surgeon where the bloody, raw organ parts start flying.

  3. #3 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    February 2, 2011

    There are few things that I can say that praise the country I live in but, on this sort of thing, Finland does quite well: there are so few people in the professions that believe in this sort of stuff. Not to say that there are no stupid people here, but there seems to be a great deal fewer people who would believe in this twaddle.

  4. #4 symball
    February 2, 2011

    As I know he often used to pop in to wind you up occasionally- are you sure he hasn’t just read one of your earlier posts and started booking guests he knows will wind you up?

  5. #5 Phillip IV
    February 2, 2011

    When Dr. Oz left Oprah, he was but the learner. Now he is the master. The master of woo.

    Well, at least there’s a chance that this will mean they’ll have a woo-fight that only one of them will survive – the other will be sent to the Netherworld of the Woo.

  6. #6 Kristen
    February 2, 2011

    I is a little off topic but I just wanted to mention my take on Dr. Oz’s advice

    I went on his website the other day to look at the videos Orac linked to. A video about lowering sugar intake caught my eye. I was shocked at the “simple” advice: Just replace all starches with cucifereous veggies (broccoli, kale, cabbage and the like).

    Brilliant! I am sure low income Americans and ones who don’t have a personal chef and have a full time job will find this advice simple to implement./sarc

    I spit coffee all over my precious Mac when he said: “See, it is so easy, and very doable”. No wonder people struggle with eating right. People like Oz give impossible advice and act like people are completely inept if they cant follow.

    Than when they get sick, they should seek out con-men and useless cures. Lovely man, really. I would have thought being an MD he would respect real medicine, but he is just a media whore of the worst kind.

  7. #7 Ken Leebow
    February 2, 2011

    I taped it and got a sick feeling while watching it. It’s bad enough that Oz does this type of show, but he also pulls in Dr. Roizen.

    Sad, sad, sad … very sad.

  8. #8 Composer99
    February 2, 2011

    Here’s where I have to confess to my own denialism: I deny the existence of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

    So I’m not sure if I should be more dismayed that Dr Oz is credulously propping up bad medical practice or that Orac used a metaphor from the SW prequels to illuminate such behaviour. :)

  9. #9 Greg Fish
    February 2, 2011

    “Here’s where I have to confess to my own denialism: I deny the existence of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.”

    That’s not denialism, that’s PTSD.

  10. #10 Patrick Orlob
    February 2, 2011

    Hmm… Is it time for someone (not me) to start a “Stop Oz” website in the mold of Stop Sylvia?

    A: Yes.

  11. #11 Starskeptic
    February 2, 2011

    I second that, Composer99…

  12. #12 Orac
    February 2, 2011

    So I’m not sure if I should be more dismayed that Dr Oz is credulously propping up bad medical practice or that Orac used a metaphor from the SW prequels to illuminate such behaviour.

    I thought that, because it was the prequel analogy, it was perfect for Dr. Oz. Just as the prequels were pale shadows of the original trilogy, Dr. Oz is a pale shadow of his mentor Oprah.

  13. #13 Denice Walter
    February 2, 2011

    Orac has described how Oz – and other woo-enablers- use the “bait and switch” technique . Other concepts come to mind : “gateway Woo”, “crank magnetism”, “in for a penny, in for a pound” , “getting your feet wet”- conveying that belief in altmed may start small, find little resistance, and grow. I’m wondering if the process might also work _in reverse_.

    Hear me out: suppose that a person holds (and cherishes) interrelated whimsy-based beliefs ( e.g. things he/she reads in NaturalNews) about toxins, raw food, super-nutrition, anti-vax, HIV/AIDS denialism, BigPharma-phobia, etc. Now, one of these beliefs is challenged by news that say, a lead author committed fraud, that a supplement caused illness, etc.- making it harder to believe in the veracity of the original source**. It might explain why, following Andy’s recent trials, web woo-meisters rushed in to support him and attack Deer. If supporters believe Deer, perhaps they might question the source on *other* “facts” purveyed on the site. Perhaps the woo-slinger fears that the whole house of cards might collapse if part of the foundation ( an important woo-concept) falls.

    ** I know about cognitive dissonance. Believe me.

  14. #14 Maren
    February 2, 2011

    I caught Dr.Oz. Show this am and feel the need to add my 2cents. I was brought up a Christian Scientist but left it when I married 45 yrs ago. I have a number of serious ailments, MS, Spinal Stenosis, Fibromyalgia, 3 major stomach operations. Although I’ve been away from the form of “mind over matter” type of teachings it has indeed kept me together. My health has definitely been helped by those things I was taught as a youngster. I believe Dr. Oz was just trying to open up thinking of alternate healing techniques. Since when does everyone take everything they hear on TV as THE only answer? Give him a break.

  15. #15 Composer99
    February 2, 2011

    Orac @ 13:

    I thought that, because it was the prequel analogy, it was perfect for Dr. Oz. Just as the prequels were pale shadows of the original trilogy, Dr. Oz is a pale shadow of his mentor Oprah.

    Fair enough. :)

    Denise @ 14:

    I suspect it’s not soo much about ‘house of cards’ or ‘single smoking gun’ metaphors as about feedback loops.

    As you note:

    belief in altmed may start small, find little resistance, and grow. I’m wondering if the process might also work in reverse.

    I would interpret this as the initial reliance on pseudomedicine, if unchallenged (either by the person relying on it or by someone else), can lead to positive feedback loops causing more reliance on pseudomedicine and the thought system supporting it and, similarly, to rejections of medicine and the thought processes supporting it (which would be where phenomena such as crank magnetism comes in).

    In reverse, a reliance on medicine and the thought system supporting can create a positive feedback loop as well.

    Now consider that most people are probably in thrall to both of these feedback loops, to some degree or another, simultaneously (which is why you could, say, get a mastectomy and chemo for breast cancer and, ten years down the road, be using dubious supplements to ‘boost your immune system’ to prevent recurrence)(*).

    (*) Describes a real person I know.

  16. #16 elly
    February 2, 2011

    Best take down of the first prequel evah: http://www.slashfilm.com/watch-this-70-minute-video-review-of-star-wars-the-phantom-menace/

    Maybe that guy could do a video review of Dr. Oz’s show, lol.

  17. #17 Lynn Wilhelm
    February 2, 2011

    OT: Diane Rehm, on NPR, has Seth Mnookin and others on now discussing vaccines.
    Check it out here: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-02-02/vaccines-and-autism-story-medicine-science-and-fear

    Some silly comments online.

  18. #18 WLU
    February 2, 2011

    To be fair to the doctors of Cathy and Patricia Kane (the two anecdotes presented as data), we have no idea what they actually said. All we have to go on is what Cathy and Patricia said (and possibly Dr. Oz and Nemeh). It’s quite possible that Cathy and Patricia got great, science-based advice but either ignored or misremembered it (Dr. Kane is a doctor of…) and all we get is their garbled summary. If either or both were predisposed to believe in woo in the first place, they may have ignored, misinterpreted, downplayed or outright lied about what their regular, conventional doctors said in favour of a credulous summary of the Brave Maverick Doctor’s alternative.

    People keep mentioning Dr. Oz to me and because of crap like this, my responses increasingly involve a word that rhymes with “masshole”.

  19. #19 Pieter B
    February 2, 2011

    Since when does everyone take everything they hear on TV as THE only answer?

    Everyone/everything/only? I’m not going to play poker with a deck stacked like that. However, a significant percentage of the public does believe a lot of what they hear on TV. Case in point, a recent poll by CNN revealed that over 40% of Republicans believe that President Obama was “probably” or “definitely” not born in the USA.

  20. #20 Anthro
    February 2, 2011

    @Kristin

    I have no time for Oz or CAM, but I do eat lots of cruciferous veggies, especially kale and collards. I use them the way I used to use lettuce, in salads–kale beet (with the yellow ones) salad is easy to make and even my omnivorous and carnivorous family love veggies now they’ve actually tried them.

    How is is “difficult” to start eating cruciferous veggies? I have always eaten broccoli and cabbage at some level, but stepped the whole thing up very rapidly when I got diabetic. I lost 45 lbs (five years and holding) and have normal blood sugar now. I eat a balanced diet with about 30% of calories from carbs–as recommended by registered dietician. I make those carbs whole grains. I strive to eat every color of veggie most days. It isn’t difficult; you buy them, cut them up, make a salad or steam, saute them, or put them in soup or whatever you are making. Protein comes from salmon, nuts and beans–all in modest amounts.

    Perhaps you mean that you just don’t like veggies.

  21. #21 GotTheBlues
    February 2, 2011

    Refuting vaccine-autism link on Diane Rehm today.

  22. #22 Lori Lieberman
    February 2, 2011

    This reminds me of materials brought to my attention about the curative properties of Acai berry juice for MS. The brochure was accompanied by testimonials, including one from a (I suspect well-paid-off ) MD describing an MS pt. presenting with a symptom and unable to walk. Following the “miracle juice”, 6 weeks later, the MD returned and voila! The patient’s symptom was gone! Yes, as someone with MS, I am well aware that the average time for symptoms to abate is (drum roll please)–6 weeks!
    Further, a list of references were provided, seemingly validating this amazing potion. Yet none of the studies were related to MS, merely about antioxidants and their other known effects.
    Just had to share.
    Thanks for a great post.

  23. #23 Denice Walter
    February 2, 2011

    @ Composer99: I’m purely _speculating_ that if *some* people slide into the whirlpool of pseudo-science, step by unsteady step, aided and abetted by folk like Oz, we might use “big news items”** that contraindicate woo to offer them a hand in extricating themselves from the morass. Think of the news items as *our* wedge issues or “cautionary tales”( supported by data), if you like.

    ** most expertly reported here @ RI: Wakefield’s fraud, Daniel Hauser, death by altmed cancer “treatment”, HIV/AIDS denialism as government policy in SA and its consequences, OD’ing on vitamin D, etc.

  24. #24 Finn
    February 2, 2011

    @Anthro, it is very difficult to start eating cruciferous veggies if you can’t afford them (fast food is cheaper), don’t have time to prepare them because you work multiple jobs (fast food takes less time), or the store in your neighborhood doesn’t carry them, as is the case in many poor neighborhoods. Same with whole grains: white rice and white bread are cheaper and more likely to be carried in neighborhood grocery stores than whole wheat bread and brown rice. Picture a single mom without a car working 2 jobs to keep a roof over her family’s heads and food on their table, living in a poor neighborhood where there’s a McDonald’s and a KFC but no major supermarket so she has to shop for staples at an overpriced corner store where there is little or no fresh produce and no whole grain anything for sale. Or maybe there is a supermarket she can reach by bus but the prices in the inner city are double or triple the prices out in the suburbs, especially for fresh produce. In any case, by the time she fetches the kids after work and gets them home, maybe she has 90 minutes to get them fed and their homework done before heading out to her next job or putting them to bed. She has neither the time nor the money to shop for whole grains and vegetables, prepare them, and cook them, so it is quite “difficult,” if not outright impossible, for her to start eating cruciferous vegetables.

  25. #25 Byantivirus
    February 2, 2011

    People keep mentioning Dr. Oz to me and because of crap like this, my responses increasingly involve a word that rhymes with “masshole”.

  26. #26 René Najera
    February 2, 2011

    There is a special place in hell for people like this. They will be in good company with rapists and people who speak during movies at the theater.

  27. #27 Nicolás
    February 2, 2011

    “Dr. Oz’s journey to the Dark Side is complete. When Dr. Oz left Oprah, he was but the learner. Now he is the master. The master of woo. Yes, yes, I know the analogy is flawed in that it inappropriately likens Oprah to being one of the good guys (i.e., Obi-Wan Kenobi), but I just love that line.”

    Not really, his med school proffessors would be obi-wan.
    Oprah would be Darth Sirius (chancellor palpatine)

  28. #28 Laura
    February 2, 2011

    Nasal irrigation is used for sinusitis a lot in mainstream medicine. Dr. Murray Grossan ( http://www.ent-consult.com ) sells a pulsatile nasal irrigation device that he says puts out a water stream that pulses at the same rate as the cilia are supposed to. He says it encourages the cilia to move better, and in chronic sinusitis the cilia are often not beating very well and not doing their job of clearing out the sinuses. He did a study which showed that nasal irrigation reduced IgE in people with allergies.
    I tried it and didn’t find it helped, but I may be more suffering from allergies than chronic sinusitis.
    I don’t know what the “detox diet” that this guy mentioned on the Oz show was about, but hypoallergenic elimination diets have helped me a LOT in finding food sensitivities – you notice a reaction (in my case, getting sick for several days) if you try the food after the elimination diet, when you wouldn’t have before the elimination diet. That’s a kind of detox diet.

  29. #29 PsyberDave
    February 2, 2011

    Orac,

    I tremendously appreciate your coverage of these uncritical, intellectually sloppy physicians. I find them to be a menace.

    …Which leads into my real reason for commenting:
    PLEASE, no more references the the Star Wars prequels.

    [Rocking, in a fetal position]They never happened. They never happened. They never happened. [/]

  30. #30 Kristen
    February 2, 2011

    Anthro,

    How is is “difficult” to start eating cruciferous veggies?

    I’m not trying to be mean but did you even read my comment? Finn gave an excellent description of my point.

    As far as your assumption that I was speaking of myself: I study nutrition, run marathons and love vegetables. In some places it is near impossible to find fresh foods. Healthy food is more expensive, and takes longer to prepare. Another big obstacle is people who didn’t grow up on these foods not knowing what they taste like or how to prepare them.

    Case in point: I took my (adopted) teen to the grocery store and picked up some red cabbage. She about had a heart attack, “what did they do to that cabbage, did they dye it?” She was born into a very difficult situation and was not ever offered healthy foods. Imagine she grew up in a group home, would she learn to cook healthy food?

    Even your average middle class American watching Dr. Oz would feel overwhelmed if he/she is used to eating convenience foods. And it is hard to stick with your guns those first few weeks when your children are throwing fits because they aren’t getting their favorites (getting children to eat healthy when they are used to junk takes persistance).

    Generally speaking making huge dietary changes all at once is an uphill battle. Making small changes and sticking with them then adding more small changes gets one to the same place. Oversimplified advice, however well meaning, doesn’t work.

  31. #31 Kristen
    February 2, 2011

    Anthro,

    I had one thing I forgot: you became diabetic and saw a dietitian. This is exactly the point I was making, not everyone has that luxury. And I am guessing from the content of your comment your lifestyle wasn’t the healthiest five years ago? You, of all people know how hard it is. I am so glad you were successful, I wish you the best.

    I believe you misunderstood me, I am sorry if my reply causes offense. I don’t mean for it to.

  32. #32 Anthro
    February 2, 2011

    @ Kristen

    Oh my goodness, no offense taken, none at all. I was only mystified by your remark. I didn’t see that you were relating your question to financial means.

    I must tell you, though, that I saw the dietician on my health insurance, which was a state plan (Washington Basic Health). There was no co-pay and I was given a looseleaf binder of materials for reference, which included a treasure trove of good science based information.

    On the contrary about the eating habits. I have always eaten well–just too many calories. I did shift to fewer carbs after seeing the dietician, but basically she didn’t tell me anything new–just made it clear to me what the facts were and taught me the importance of ACTUAL serving sizes and the importance of measuring. Don’t forget the exercise– walking is adequate (and cheap). Most of all, she got me to take the first step to weight management–KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL SO YOU CAN FIND OUT WHAT YOU ARE EATING AS A STARTING POINT to figure out how many calories you can consume.

    I know, of course, that eating fruits and veggies can be expensive, but kale and collards happen to be quite cheap and one bunch mixed with cabbage (also cheap) makes a lot of salad. I am on a fixed income, so whatever I say is not coming from elitism. I don’t eat much meat (by choice), so that makes it easier for me. The salmon is my biggest expense but I only eat 4-6 oz, so one filet goes quite a ways.

  33. #33 Michelle
    February 2, 2011

    I just caught about 10 minutes of this faith healing nonsense on the Dr. Oz show in the waiting area of an oil change place.

    Appalling.

    This guy has an MD? From an actual medical school?

    Seriously?!

    I’m just going to stop writing before I start cursing…

  34. #34 rob
    February 2, 2011

    hokey religion and faith healings are no match for good science based medicine at your side, kids.

  35. #35 Kristen
    February 2, 2011

    Thank you, Anthro.

    On the contrary about the eating habits. I have always eaten well–just too many calories.

    You sound like my husband, I hope he grows up to be like you:) He is starting to eat better, now that his scoliosis is causing bad arthritis (he is only 33!!), he knows losing his excess weight (about 45 lbs also) is the only thing that will help with the symptoms (aside from living on muscle relaxants).

    Thank you for sharing.

  36. #36 JustaTech
    February 2, 2011

    Rob @35: You have won an internet, good job!

  37. #37 nybgrus
    February 2, 2011

    Laura – you consistently miss the point here. I hate to say it, but you are consistently fall for the bait and switch. Yes, nasal irrigation with saline IS helpful – it IS science based medicine. But sticking butter (ghee is clarified butter) up your nose and all the rest of that is garbage. Hence BAIT – nasal irrigation works – and SWITCH – butter up your nose and purgatives must work too!

    Hope that clarifies it for you!

  38. #38 Clarissa
    February 2, 2011

    Watched this, and was insanely disappointed in Dr. Oz! Positive thinking, also known as feeling-less-stressed-about-my-medical-condition, and given a sense of hope are very powerful factors in our health. It has nothing to do with the freakin’ supernatural! Faith healing and prayer creates hope and positive thinking, both good things, and occasionally there’s a good outcome. Suggestion, especially by someone we see as some sort of authority, is highly influential. If your psyche is wholly convinced, that positive outlook can affect your health.

    The show did mention that there were many that he couldn’t heal, but I’m sure, like most faith healing situations, if you were able to have statistics on healed vs unhealed, the healed would be a crazy tiny minority. Also, the illnesses “healed” would likely be those that do have the possibility of remedying themselves. I mean, does anyone actually think a faith healer could undo Alzheimer’s? The illnesses are suspiciously always very internal (no skin or limb issues), and never mental. The entire torso seems to be the most likely location to work itself out, thus credited to a charlatan like this man…. who charges $250 a session.

  39. #39 Militant Agnostic
    February 2, 2011

    sells a pulsatile nasal irrigation device that he says puts out a water stream that pulses at the same rate as the cilia are supposed to.

    Instead of a Netti pot which has evidence behind it and is way cheaper – but where’s the money in that eh.

  40. #40 Cath the Canberra Cook
    February 2, 2011

    Also, note that the advice to “Just replace all starches with cruciferous veggies” is a very long way removed from simply eating more cruciferous vegetables. The latter is quite easily done (if you are not a poor American). The former is mind-bogglingly ridiculous.

    Think about it. No sandwiches. No pasta. No rice. No oatmeal. No potatoes. No corn. For reals? This ludicrous all or nothing approach seems to be one the the woo standards. NO sugar/starch/meat/dairy/etc whatsoever, ever… And then when you don’t get better it’s your own fault because you ate a few chips at Maccas once last year, not because there’s anything wrong with their ideas.

    BTW, I do have a northern Thai curry recipe, a slow cooked pork and tamarind thing, that recommends serving it over shredded cabbage rather than rice. This is surprisingly refreshing – a good way to eat a summer curry.

  41. #41 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 2, 2011

    What, you can’t have a peanut butter and jelly cabbage-wrap?

  42. #42 Amy
    February 2, 2011

    Can you/we lobby to get you on?

  43. #43 Joey Babowee
    February 3, 2011

    It might be radically obvious to all of us, but it’s pretty obvious to me that the most likely explanation for any kind of faith healing has to do with psychological functions shaped by evolution. If you are of the idea that it’s all good, that you’re being taken care of, or even if these buttons somehow get pushed in a situation that is beyond your conscious mind to understand, it seems entirely probable that the healing function is increased, that the fear mechanisms are decreased. I think instead of mocking the faith healers and calling them kooks (which they deserve and are but still…) we should take this opportunity to advance science-based theories as to why this is really happening. I don’t know the literature on this, but I know it exists, there’s literature on nocebo etc. Anyway it’s a patthern I’m seeing in the skeptical community where people are getting a dopamine rush off of being better or not as screwed up as others and missing the opporunities we have to do public services. Not really Orac, he’s the man. Just in general.

    I’m off to make sure my salt rock crystals are still good and salty.

  44. #44 WLU
    February 3, 2011

    @Laura

    A detox diet is a pseudo-magical belief that you can eliminate the “contamination” that causes all disease and symptoms. It has nothing to do with the evidence-based phenomenon that allergies are caused by immune reactions to specific compounds. The two have no relation whatsoever. An allergy-eliminating diet involves eliminating specific foods based on evidence. A “detox diet” eliminates certain foods a priori under the belief that they are “inherently” bad, in all cases. There is no evidence involved – both in the sense that there is no scientific evidence, and in the sense that the diet is not altered in a rational manner based on evidence.

    This is indeed a bait and switch.

  45. #45 David N. Brown
    February 3, 2011

    As I have mentioned here before, I personally find claims of “faith healing” much LESS objectionable than many “alt med” theories and claims. Obviously, a claimed supernatural mechanism is qualitatively different from one that is SUPPOSED to be rooted in plants, chemicals, etc. What I think is more important is that religious activities are a credible source of psychological support, which is established to be a significant factor in health. What people need to be realistic about is that the psychological or “spiritual” element can only be expected to be decisive when the odds are pretty close to begin with. If the problem is severe enough that the chances of recovery are reckoned nill, the only responsible thing for a religious leader to do is try to provide “comfort”.

  46. #46 David N. Brown
    February 3, 2011

    As I have mentioned here before, I personally find claims of “faith healing” much LESS objectionable than many “alt med” theories and claims. Obviously, a claimed supernatural mechanism is qualitatively different from one that is SUPPOSED to be rooted in plants, chemicals, etc. What I think is more important is that religious activities are a credible source of psychological support, which is established to be a significant factor in health. What people need to be realistic about is that the psychological or “spiritual” element can only be expected to be decisive when the odds are pretty close to begin with. If the problem is severe enough that the chances of recovery are reckoned nill, the only responsible thing for a religious leader to do is try to provide “comfort”.

  47. #47 prn
    February 3, 2011

    “Also, note that the advice to “Just replace all starches with cruciferous veggies” is a very long way removed from simply eating more cruciferous vegetables. The latter is quite easily done (if you are not a poor American). The former is mind-bogglingly ridiculous.”

    Poor as in low income is not the problem, poor information is more likely. Eating right may be mind-bogglingly ridiculous, but not financial reasons. I was dealing with the hired help in an assisted living home, their “meals” were sacks of expensive, BRANDED snack junk, one having recently filed bankruptcy. My food was healthier, including (raw) cabbage, and much cheaper, maybe half their cost. They were even invited to use our private kitchen, but didn’t. A majority of the help was wrestling with weight and (pre)diabetes, even down to the 20s.

  48. #48 nybgrus
    February 3, 2011

    @joey: yes, but pretending it is supernatural does nobody any long term or real good, especially when coupled with other woo. We as doctors are trained (arguably inadequately) to address these issues from a science based perspective involving empathy and treating patients as a human being. I don’t need to pretend to channel god for those effects.

  49. #49 deedoyle
    February 3, 2011

    Dr. Oz may have gone the direction of Mainsteam homeopathy, or totally off the grid with unconventional medicines during the aforementioned segment.
    Attempting to integrate traditional with complementary medicine is a good thing, and is the main topic of conversation at the One Path Summit, March 26-27 in Atlanta, GA.
    For more info and a list of speakers go to http://www.onepathsummit.com.

  50. #50 Orac
    February 3, 2011

    The One Path Summit? You’ve got to be kidding. I see that Suzanne Somers is the keynote speaker and that Nicholas Gonzalez himself will be making an appearance. Not a good way to sell the “integration” of pseudoscience with science.

  51. #51 titmouse
    February 4, 2011

    I believe Dr. Oz was just trying to open up thinking of alternate healing techniques. Since when does everyone take everything they hear on TV as THE only answer? Give him a break.

    If you take the pro-alt med position you must help me with my problem: parents made fearful of real doctors who want to put their developmentally delayed children on long-term antibiotics, long-term anti-fungals, impossible gluten-free and casein-free diets, and enough dodgy supplements to fill a cereal bowl each morning. No science for any of this.

    How do I make it stop?

  52. #52 titmouse
    February 4, 2011

    Attempting to integrate traditional with complementary medicine is a good thing…

    “Comlementary” = unproven or disproven therapies. It is a very *bad* thing to “integrate” the unproven with the proven. All progress in medical science depends upon *separating* therapies that work from therapies that do not.

  53. #53 Pareidolius
    February 4, 2011

    How can Gonzalez show his face in public? Who would want to be associated with him? The mind wobbles . . .

  54. #54 Pamela ross
    November 28, 2011

    Thank god for Dr Oz. everyone I knows loves him.

  55. #55 Chris
    November 28, 2011

    Why? And why did you decide to grace us with that little factoid on a nine month old article? Are you such a fangirl that you google for any mention of Oz, but neglect to read the actual articles

  56. #56 Prometheus
    November 28, 2011

    “Pamela Ross” (#55):

    “Thank god for Dr Oz. everyone I knows loves him.”

    Yes, it is true that charlatans usually have exceptional skill at making people trust them – that’s what makes the scam work.

    If a doctor can’t get your trust by how they look and talk, then they have to prove to you that their treatments work, using data. It’s so much easier if they can simply get your unearned trust and have you “believe” them because…well, because they seem so trustworthy.

    Dr. Oz is (or was) a compentent cardiac surgeon. His recent forays into “alternative” medicine are based on nothing more than his “gut feeling” that these treatments “work”, based primarily on testimonials from patients who have gotten better. Try the following thought experiment and see if it helps you understand Dr. Oz better:

    A stockbroker wants to retire early, so he comes up with a marvelous plan. He gets a list of 1,000 potential stock buyers and sends each of them an e-mail telling them about an exciting stock. To half of them, he send a message saying that the stock will rise in value over the next 24 hours; the other half get a message saying the stock value will decline.

    The next week, he sends out e-mails to the half (500) that got the “correct” message (based on stock performance). In these e-mails, he tells half that a different stock will go up, the other half that it will go down. He repeats this again the next week.

    At the end of this three week “trial period”, he sends e-mails to the 125 remaining “winners” on his list, offering a subscription to his stock-picking service. These 125 people, having apparently seen the stock broker correctly call the movement of three stocks with no errors, are ready-made tesimonials to his uncanny accuracy.

    “Alternative” medicine testimonials are no different. The people who tried “serum of quince” for their cold and got better, the people whose headache went away after trying homeopathic porcelain, etc. are all the happy beneficiaries of a random coincidence. Those who didn’t get better have no motivation to trumpet how they tried a nonsense cure and got no better, but the people who got better – again, purely by random chance – will usually tell their friends and neighbours.

    That’s how testimonials work and why they are useless (except to sell more worthless “cures”). Dr. Oz may be very popular, but so were bleeding and purging, in their day (in fact, bleeding was so popular a medical treatment that people were asking for it even after doctors had concluded that it did no good).

    Prometheus

  57. #57 Christopher B.
    December 29, 2011

    I happened to come across a website about Dr. Oz in which he says if you have hairless toes this is a warning sign you have cardiovascular disease. Any input?

  58. #58 TBruce
    December 29, 2011

    @Christopher B:
    Loss of hair on the lower legs is a sign of peripheral vascular disease, which often is found with coronary heart disease – it’s the same disease process. I don’t know if this is what Dr Oz meant.

  59. #59 Bea
    December 31, 2011

    for more information on risks involved with conventinal medication go to http://www.cancure.org/medical_errors.htm

  60. #60 Chris
    December 31, 2011

    Bea, it is a useless rant unless compared to the risks of not using medication. That is the type fractured thinking that causes people with diabetes to stop taking their insulin, folks who have seizures to avoid their anti-convulsants and cancer patients from treatment. Examples are Penelope Dingle of Australia, and Kim Tinkham, there are articles on the latter on this blog.

    More stories can be found here:
    http://whatstheharm.net/alternativemedicine.html

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