America’s quack, dissected yet again

If there’s one doctor who irritates me possibly more than any other, it’s got to be “America’s Doctor,” a.k.a. Dr. Mehmet Oz, thanks to The Dr. Oz Show. He’s been an all too frequent topic on this blog and at my not-so-super-secret other blog. Of course, I refer to him as “America’s quack,” because, well, that’s what he is. Ever since Oprah Winfrey found him and elevated him from a promising young academic cardiothoracic surgeon with a penchant for woo to America’s quack, I’ve been pointing out how much dubious medicine and outright quackery he’s been pushing, including homeopathy, faith healing, dubious unproven (and almost certainly nonexistent) links between cell phones and breast cancer, GMO fear mongering, promotion of the antivaccine views of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and even psychic scammers like John Edward and Theresa Caputo. It’s gotten so bad that Dr. Oz has increasingly faced less than adoring press and even been hauled before Senator Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) committee for his unscrupulous boosterism for unproven weight loss supplements to be humbled. It got so bad that not long ago Dr. Oz’s social media people tried to do a an “Ask Dr. Oz” segment on Twitter under the hashtag #OzsInbox. Let’s just say that it backfired spectacularly and hilariously.

If there’s one thing that’s also puzzled me about Dr. Oz, it’s how someone who was such a promising young surgeon-scientist back in the early 1990s could have fallen so far—from a scientific standpoint, obviously. He is, after all, making a ton of money and enjoying incredible fame, thanks to his embrace of woo. Even more frustrating, even though Dr. Oz has disgraced himself more times than I can remember, he remains faculty in good standing at Columbia University. Heck, he’s more than faculty in good standing. He’s a full professor in the department of surgery there. Heck, he’s vice-chair! He’s also the director of Columbia’s Cardiovascular Institute and Integrative Medicine Program. In other words, he does hold high ranking positions in Columbia University’s department of surgery and integrative medicine program.

It’s this latter fact that’s irritated me, and I’ve wondered why no one has ever made a stink to his university about this. Then, upon arriving home from New York from NECSS, what to my wondering eyes should appear but one answer to my question in the form of a post on Skepchick by Kavin Senapathy revealing that Dr. Henry Miller had written a letter to Lee Goldman, MD, the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University complaining that Dr. Oz is faculty at Columbia:

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 judgements 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.

The letter is signed by:

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.
Anesthesiologist
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.
Psychiatrist
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
Chapel Hill, NC

As much as I appreciate the sentiment, I can’t help but see this as a wasted opportunity, something that is unlikely to accomplish anything but brief publicity, with Columbia already having responded with the predictable bromides about “academic freedom.” I hate to be too negative about an effort like this, so I’ll tell you why I am. Think about it. There are only ten signatories. Two are from the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank based at Stanford University whose fellows tend to be climate change denialists. In other words, it’s an institution whose commitment to science is highly questionable to nonexistent in one area, and it’s attacking Oz for pseudoscience? Two others are affiliated with the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a group that is pro-science when that science aligns with industry interests, particularly the pesticide industry. ACSH’s late president Elizabeth Whelan was known for dismissing any concerns about various chemicals as potential health hazards as “chemophobia” and even referring to “chemophobia” as an “emotional, psychiatric problem,” which is not very skeptical at all. Indeed, as I’ve mentioned before, a few years ago, when ACSH invited me to be on its board of advisors, I turned it down because I perceive ACSH as going too far in the other direction (not to mention the problem of its behaving largely like an industry shill) to the point that it takes the germ of a reasonable idea (that there’s too much fear mongering about “chemicals”) and takes a despicable turn with it by implicitly likening concerns about chemical pollutants and other chemicals that might cause health problems to mental illness by labeling them “chemophobia.” Lately, ACSH has been pushing e-cigs as the greatest thing since sliced bread, the answer to tobacco addiction, and attacking anyone who has the temerity to suggest that e-cigs are unproven and should perhaps be regulated.

That’s why ACSH is such a frustrating organization. It’s often right scientifically about issues like vaccines, deconstructing The Food Babe’s nonsense, and attacking quackery, but on issues like the question of health problems related to various chemicals, e-cigs, and taking the food industry to task it’s maddeningly—to me, at least—in the thrall of commercial interests. Or, at least, that’s the way it appears. It also makes some incredibly bad arguments sometimes. In this case, ACSH is right to criticize Dr. Oz, and Dr. Miller is appropriate to question why Columbia retains him in high ranking positions in its department of surgery, cardiac institute, and integrative medicine program. Indeed, I have no problem with what Dr. Miller did, but I really wish he hadn’t done such a half-assed job of it. There are lots of skeptical doctors (like myself) who would have signed the letter if it had been presented to us before sending it to Columbia. I probably would have signed it, even given my reservations about some of the signatories and my doubts that it will do anything other than produce some transient bad publicity for Dr. Oz and Columbia. In actuality, if anyone is going to “bring down Oz,” I think it will be the slow, careful sort of campaign being waged by a medical student named Ben Mazer rather than just a letter to the dean. Mazer has been documenting examples of patient harm that have resulted from Dr. Oz’s bad medical advice, and, I suspect, it is the slow drip-drip-drip of such stories that will ultimately irrevocably tarnish the Oz brand.

There’s also the issue of appropriateness of trying to get someone fired for their views outside of their job, something I’ve been on the receiving end of more than once and been grateful that the two universities where I’ve been faculty have basically ignored such complaints. In any case, whether or not Dr. Miller’s letter was a good idea, did or didn’t go far enough, or will do any good, just yesterday, Julia Belluz of Vox.com published a nice overview of how Dr. Oz the promising academic surgeon of 20 years ago became Dr. Oz, America’s quack, entitled The making of Dr. Oz: How an award-winning doctor turned away from science and embraced fame. What I liked about it was that it was a good overview and filled in some blanks in my knowledge about Dr. Oz’s history. For instance:

I spoke to dozens of Oz’s colleagues, mentors, and other health professionals who have been touched by the surgeon or his work, some who’ve known the man since his early days fresh out of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. I read his early books. I talked to his fans — including my own mother. I found out that the roots of Oz’s experimentation with alternative techniques go all the way back to his childhood, and that his departures from evidence-based medicine have gotten more extreme as he’s become more famous. I also learned that the making of Dr. Oz says more about America’s approach to health than it does about its most famous doctor.

I knew Dr. Oz embraced reiki, even inviting reiki masters into his operating room, as far back as the 1990s. I hadn’t known that his flirtation with alternative medicine had gone back to his childhood. I did know this, but it’s worth emphasizing again:

Oz has achieved some of the greatest scientific accomplishments of his career at Columbia. While a resident there, he was the four-time winner of the prestigious Blakemore research prize, which goes to the most outstanding surgery resident. He now holds 11 patents for inventing methods and devices involved in heart surgeries and transplants. This includes helping to research and develop the left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, which helps keep people alive while they’re awaiting a heart transplant. Oz had a hand in turning the hospital’s LVAD program into one of the biggest and most active in the world.

This is, as they say, a BFD, an incredibly impressive accomplishment. I have no problem admitting that I never won any prize this prestigious as a resident or in my career. Even as an attending the one award I did earn doesn’t measure up. Oz’s accomplishments as a young surgeon were truly impressive. Given Dr. Oz’s current submersion in quackery for his TV show, it’s easy to forget that back in the late 1980s he was the real deal, a true surgeon-scientist in development. By the early 1990s he was a rising star in academic surgery and continued on that path for many years afterward. Dr. Oz is only a couple of years older than I am; so we are of the same generation and came up through the academic surgical ranks around the same time; so I have an idea of how difficult it was to have earned such awards back then.

Part of Belluz’s article involves an interview with Dr. Richard Green, the associate chief of cardiac, thoracic, and vascular surgery, Dr. Oz’s division. It is in this interview that to me confirmed my belief that complaints to the bigwigs at Columbia about Oz are unlikely to go anywhere. Dr. Green has his proboscis so far up Dr. Oz’s posterior that he could clean the back of Oz’s teeth with his own tongue. It’s nauseating and depressing, with Green saying that he’d vote for Oz if he ran for president and attributes the leveling off of the increase in obesity rates in the US to Dr. Oz’s show and how it raises awareness of the importance of eating right.

Here’s what’s maddening, though. Belluz asked Green a question about a recent article in the BMJ that that examined the health claims on The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors and found that about half the recommendations had no evidence to support them or even contradicted what the best science tells us now. I’ve blogged about this very study (of course). His response was telling:

Green admitted that he had never seen The Dr. Oz Show. “I don’t know what he would promote or not promote,” he said.

Then he asked: “Why would anyone mistake that for anything but entertainment?”

Green said he thought people in Oz’s audience would be able to distinguish between the man’s work on TV and his work in the operating room. Plus, he said, even if Oz did deviate from science sometimes, this didn’t make him any different from every other doctor. After all, physicians don’t always practice in an evidence-based manner. Critics were being unfair to Oz by holding him to an evidence-based standard, Green felt. Oz wasn’t pushing narcotics and antibiotics through his show, Green reasoned — just harmless supplements and health tips.

“What can a TV doctor do except for give advice about how to live your life?” he asked.

I thought my head was going to explode as I read that passage. It has it all: False equivalence, a shruggie attitude that doesn’t care about whether Oz is peddling quackery or not and even excuses Oz if he is, lame justifications for what Oz does every day. Clearly, Dr. Green is as much a part of the problem of Dr. Oz as Dr. Oz is himself!

Equally telling is how Dr. Green seemed to dance around the topic of whether Dr. Oz is still a good cardiothoracic surgeon:

I asked Green whether he’d want to be Oz’s patient, and he said, “If you did a poll of the staff at Columbia and asked them, ‘If you needed a heart operation and Mehmet was there, would you want him?’ they’d say yes.”

He then added, “He’s probably a little rusty right now.” He said Oz seemed to be operating less and less — from several hundred surgeries per year at his peak to a maximum of about 100 now — as he entertains more and more.

Notice how Dr. Green didn’t directly answer the question. Instead, he cited a hypothetical poll of the staff at Columbia without actually saying whether he himself would go to Dr. Oz if he needed heart surgery. Then he even conceded that Dr. Oz is probably a bit rusty because he doesn’t operate nearly as much as he used to. Let me tell you something. I’ve been a surgeon over 25 years. I know that surgeons don’t like to speak ill of other surgeons and will almost never directly say that a surgeon is no good, particularly to the media. Dr. Green’s reluctance to answer a direct question about Dr. Oz’s surgical competence, his invocation of Oz’s being “rusty,” and his excuses for Dr. Oz all combine to scream at me that Dr. Green doesn’t think particularly highly of Dr. Oz’s current surgical skills but can’t openly say so. If that weren’t the case, he would have said something along the lines of, “Hell, yes! If I needed a heart operation I’d pick Dr. Oz to do it!” You can’t fool a fellow surgeon that way, Dr. Green.

Of course, Dr. Oz brings fame and fortune to Columbia, and that’s what really matters. If Dr. Green were to go on record publicly criticizing Dr. Oz, I doubt he’d retain his division chief job long after that. Who can blame him for using code and playing dumb, saying that he’s never watched Dr. Oz’s show, which he did in his interview? I can, that’s for sure. Even so, I feel a bit sorry for him. He probably would have been better off declining to be interviewed.

It’s also interesting how Dr. Oz is not particularly fond of criticism. No one is, but when you’re a major media figure, it doesn’t look good if you do things like this:

Oz’s staff, unsurprisingly, doesn’t like the criticism either. When I tried to attend that March taping of Oz’s show in New York after getting a ticket through a lottery, Tim Sullivan, the show’s media representative, told me, “We cannot accommodate you attending Friday’s taping or other future tapings” — despite the fact that several other journalists have gone to Oz show tapings in the past. Sullivan then stopped returning any of my emails, including several requests for interviews and information for this piece.

Now that’s not the way someone committed to science, good medicine, and openness deals with the press. It never looks good to shut out critics like that, even if she writes:

I talked to many other doctors from across America with patients who have been touched by the Oz effect. Again and again, they used phrases like “snake-oil salesman” and “quack” to refer to him. They worried about their patients. Rather than heaping him with praise as Oz’s New York colleagues or fans did, they said he is a menace to public health, that he takes advantage of people and confuses medical issues.

Yup. that’s exactly right. Also, rather predictably (albeit still depressingly), this story reveals that it’s been all about Dr. Oz, rather than patients, for a long time. In other words, Dr. Oz is always acting and has turned into a publicity hound:

Monique Class, a family nurse practitioner and another former employee of the center, said the media attention negatively affected their work. “It became about Oz. Not about the project. Not about the patients. Not about the work. That all became secondary to his rise to the top.”

It wasn’t uncommon, Class said, for Oz to say some version of the following to her or to the other employees: “Give me a patient because the cameras are coming in, and tell me what I need to know.”

Class said, “He was always acting. He didn’t know this patient. He was not connected to this patient. We’d give him a two- or three-minute sound bite and he’d sit there in front of the cameras like he’d done this work and had this deep connection.”

Which is exactly what he does on his show.

While I was at NECSS, I spoke to a couple of primary care physicians (whom it’s great to see at NECSS), and their perception is that they’re getting fewer “but Dr. Oz says” sort of comments and questions from patients. However, that’s strictly anecdotal. I have no idea if it is representative of a larger trend, but I can hope because, if true, it suggests that maybe America’s finally getting wise to the snake oil hucksterism that is the Dr. Oz brand. If not, I hope America wakes up soon. We deserve “America’s doctor,” not “America’s quack.” Unfortunately, with Dr. Oz, America’s quack is what we’re getting.

Comments

  1. #1 Ellie
    April 17, 2015

    So….you’re saying I probably shouldn’t go out and *buy a case of Hepasil DTX to detox my liver and therefore be miraculously well for the rest of my life?

    Yes, it’s true (she said looking shamefaced); I was channel surfing yesterday and stopped on America’s Quack for a few minutes.

    *This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

  2. #2 Dangerous Bacon
    April 17, 2015

    “He’s probably a little rusty right now.”

    This is a far more devastating assessment of Dr. Oz than anything appearing in the joint letter to Columbia.

    I wouldn’t have thought that 100 surgeries a year was that low a number, but that figure has to take into account what types of procedures are being performed.

    In any case, I would not want my surgery performed by a physician whose focus seems to be primarily on harvesting publicity.

  3. #3 Orac
    April 17, 2015

    To be honest, I wonder how Oz can do 100 heart cases a year with his extracurricular activities. That’s more than two cardiac cases a week (accounting for vacation, with most academic physicians getting roughly four weeks of vacation time a year). If he’s reasonably fast, he can probably do two in a day. Then consider a day in clinic. Then all his administrative duties. Then his show. Then all his travel and promotional activities.

  4. #4 MikeMa
    April 17, 2015

    According to RawStory, Columbia has refused to fire the quack. How revolting.

  5. #5 Orac
    April 17, 2015

    Columbia can’t fire Oz. He has tenure. Columbia could strip him of his leadership positions and relegate him to being just another Professor in the Department of Surgery, but there’s no way it’s going to do even that.

  6. #6 Eric Lund
    April 17, 2015

    @MikeMa: Dr. Oz is presumably tenured faculty, which means it would be difficult to fire him. Columbia could probably get rid of him if his activities reached a level of criminal malfeasance, but his activities, though reprehensible, have not yet reached that level. (IANAL)

    Then [Dr. Green] asked: “Why would anyone mistake that for anything but entertainment?”

    Pull the other one, Dr. Green, it has bells on. Robert Young the actor (as opposed to Robert Young the quack, often profiled on this blog) felt that he had to regularly remind people that he wasn’t a real doctor after he played the title role in Marcus Welby, MD. And there is a certain so-called news network in the US, owned by one R. Murdoch, that pushes a fair amount of propaganda by claiming it’s entertainment. Not to mention the large number of stories published in the Onion and taken seriously by people who are unaware that the stories were satire. Maybe things are better now, but before the McCaskill hearing I would be surprised if a majority of Dr. Oz’s audience thought it was entertainment rather than informational.

  7. #7 Roger Kulp
    April 17, 2015

    I don’t know too much about this,but tenured professors can be fired,when the university believes there are good reasons for it.Oz has as much right to tenure as Wakefield does to practice medicine.

    http://www.nea.org/home/33067.htm
    http://www.westwebblaw.com/media/tenure.pdf

  8. #8 Yvette
    April 17, 2015

    While I despise Dr. Oz as much as anyone, it is not clear to me what Columbia could do exactly. They are in a bind. How could they deal with him without making him a martyr and paradoxically increasing his influence?

    I certainly applaud the doctors who are willing to speak out against him and imagine that Dr. Oz is laughed at and scorned by the majority of the Columbia faculty.

  9. #9 Yvette
    April 17, 2015

    Coincidentally, I just happened to read this obituary today of another prominent heart surgeon. His name is Dr. Levi Watkins and he invented the automatic heart defibrillator.

    http://tinyurl.com/p467lon

    It is a shame that docs like him, who don’t pursue fame and self-glorification, are not household names like Dr. Oz.

  10. #10 palindrom
    April 17, 2015

    Yvette @9 — What an amazing man! Far too soon to lose him.

    I, too, was troubled by the signatories, for exactly the reasons Orac pointed out (though I hadn’t been aware of ACSH). And indeed, getting rid of a tenured professor is extremely difficult and a terrible precedent. But Green’s weasly defense of Oz is ridiculous.

  11. #11 Helianthus
    April 17, 2015

    as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops.

    As much as I am pro-GMOs, I am not sure it’s something I would have put in the letter. Bit of coming out of nowhere.

    The context, as I felt it, is physicians complaining about the behavior of a fellow physician. Granted , the non-scientific behavior.
    Still, GMO crops are a highly controversial and politicized topic outside of botanic labs, and this is a topic outside of the medical field, for the most part.
    If it was one among a list of topics that Dr Oz address unscientifically, it would be different, but it’s about the only concrete example being given.
    Adding a few examples of the quacks treatments would have been better. Just the coffee bean travesty would have been a great example of Dr Oz lack of ethics.

  12. #12 palindrom
    April 17, 2015

    Helianthus @11 — Indeed, singling out GMOs suggests that the signatories (esp. the ACSH people) are really pushing their own agenda. The phrase “tin ear” comes to mind.

    What a mess.

  13. #13 Orac
    April 17, 2015

    Yeah, I sometimes catch crap for being critical of ACSH. Years ago, near the beginning of my skeptical blogging activities, I used to think ACSH was OK and sometimes cited it. Then I learned more about it and saw more and more examples of ACSH being rather blatantly pro-industry that I became disillusioned. Then John Stewart did that video about ACSH and saw other things. More recently, the ACSH’s boosterism for e-cigs as the greatest thing for tobacco control ever and its attacks on anyone who suggests that maybe they should be a bit more tightly regulated have really put a bad taste in my mouth.

  14. #14 Orac
    April 17, 2015

    Adding a few examples of the quacks treatments would have been better. Just the coffee bean travesty would have been a great example of Dr Oz lack of ethics.

    Excellent point. It makes the letter come across as being just about GMOs, rather than Oz’s promotion of homeopathy, faith healing, and other quackery as a physician. I probably should have picked up on that more, given the list of signatories.

  15. #15 Sara
    April 17, 2015

    It’s remarkable that a medical student feels strongly enough about this to compile his own evidence of actual harm. Why isn’t he being supported better and getting more publicity?

  16. #16 Dangerous Bacon
    April 17, 2015

    I am considering growing this plant in honor (?) of Dr. Oz:

    http://www.taylorgreenhouses.com/coleusdrwoo.html

  17. #17 Brent
    April 17, 2015

    I bet Columbia is in no rush to piss off an extremely wealthy faculty member. I am sure their development office works on him constantly to contribute to the University.

  18. #18 Krebiozen
    April 17, 2015

    Dangerous Bacon,

    I am considering growing this plant in honor (?) of Dr. Oz:

    As I recall, some species of coleus are hallucinogenic, making this even more appropriate.

    Just yesterday I got some Oz-derived health advice from a well-meaning and much-loved relative. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to respond without causing offense.

  19. #19 Greg Fish
    http://worldofweirdthings.com
    April 17, 2015

    This quote might actually be a post of it’s own…

    That’s why ACSH is such a frustrating organization. It’s often right scientifically about issues like vaccines, deconstructing The Food Babe’s nonsense, and attacking quackery, but on issues like the question of health problems related to various chemicals, e-cigs, and taking the food industry to task it’s maddeningly—to me, at least—in the thrall of commercial interests.

    As much as Dr. Oz’s fans and supporters of many prominent quacks like to use the shill gambit, they forget that in some cases, yes, the shoe definitely fits and the people they’re calling out are shills — because if you call everyone who disagrees one, you’ll eventually run into a real shill — may actually be right even when they’re busy shilling. So even though there are climate change denialists and a few industry shills as signatories on a latter about Oz, I don’t know whether we should be so quick to dismiss them.

    But overall, you’re right that it’s pretty disturbing to see Oz’s academic colleagues bury their heads in the sand not to get some negative attention from a famous and influential person in their department. If there’s one place where science should trump academic political tribalism, it’s in the medical field. Dr. Green reminds me of the old mobster movies where people asked about a brutal crime happening directly in front of them reply with “who me? I don’t see nuthin’…”

  20. #20 Orac
    April 17, 2015

    So even though there are climate change denialists and a few industry shills as signatories on a latter about Oz, I don’t know whether we should be so quick to dismiss them.

    I might have agreed with you shortly after I posted this article, as I had some second thoughts about this. Then it was pointed out that the letter itself mentions GMOs before quackery. Combine that with the industry shills signing the letter, and not only does the letter come across as half-assed, with only ten signatories, but as having its priorities messed up. Say what you will about Dr. Oz, but he doesn’t really mention GMOs that much; were I penning such a letter I wouldn’t even have mentioned Oz’s anti-GMO nonsense, given all the quackery that Oz promotes. No, I’m not saying it’s OK to peddle anti-GMO pseudoscience, but compared to the quackery like homeopathy and antivaccine nonsense Oz has peddled, it’s his GMO pseudoscience is a very minor concern.

    So not only is the letter half-assed, but it emphasizes the least important thing first. I wouldn’t sign it in its present form.

  21. #21 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 17, 2015

    IMHO, the people who signed this complaint were dead wrong in doing so, regardless of the validity of their facts. This letter is an attempt to cost Dr. Oz his job for activities outside of his university responsibilities that the university is doubtless already aware of. In concept it is no different from someone contacting one’s boss because of posts on a personal blog.

    If they could point to how Dr. Oz had acted in violation of law or of his employer’s policies, that could be justified. Columbia is perfectly justified in standing by Dr. Oz in this case, whether they disagree with the substance of the letter or not.

  22. #22 Denice Walter
    April 17, 2015

    Couldn’t the doctors from SBM write their own letter to the university?

  23. #23 DevoutCatalyst
    April 17, 2015

    “Dr. Green has his proboscis so far up Dr. Oz’s posterior that he could clean the back of Oz’s teeth with his own tongue.”

    Now that’s Gahan Wilson-esque…

  24. #24 sadmar
    Dr. Kansas
    April 17, 2015

    Wow. The reference to GMOs in the letter got my guard up, and then I saw the Hoover affiliations, and I was dreading the possibility RI’ers wouldn’t be concerned, so I’m so relieved Orac, Hellanthus, and palindrom are questioning the motives and tactics.

    The giveaway for me was accusing Oz of “opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops”, as if that is a no-brainer delegitimating position. The divisiveness around GMOs Hellanthus notes comes from a conflation of different issues. The idea that genetically modified foods are bio-frankensteins that can cause harm to humans who ingest them would seem to be woo of the first order. Yet, the agricultural practices and economics of GMO production are certainly subject to legitimate debate, and many activists opposed to GMO production focus on these issues, rather than the very dubious ‘eating GMOs is dangerous’ claims.

    But I’m guessing Oz does go there, at least by hinting, and as much as I’m opposed to Corporate Ag, that dog won’t hunt and just deflects from the genuine concerns, so the ‘GMO=poison’ stuff really gets my back up. If Oz is selling that Kool-Aid, that’s what should be specifically critiqued.
    . . . .
    As for what negative consequences Oz could or should face for his quackery, unless there is evidence he is not performing his academic duties to standards of quality or ethics, there’s no merit to challenging his standing at Columbia. It’s not even an academic freedom issue unless he’s promoting woo in his scholarly research, administrative functions, teaching (if he does that), or engaging in dubious practices with patients. Professors are allowed to have all kinds of weird activities on their own time, as long as they don’t muck up their academic work. What could get him trouble are COI issues, but those would have nothing to do with woo per se.

    While Columbia can’t, won’t and shouldn’t put him out to pasture for quacking on TV, they probably have a means to demand he rein in what he does on The Oz Show. If the show is where he does bad things, it’s the show that should come under fire, not his academic appointment. There are ‘sticks’ Columbia could threaten Oz with regarding the show. As Orac says #5 they likely won’t strip his leadership titles and relegate him to just-another-Professor — too public and dramatic. But they can re-define his administrative role, re-allocate authority, grant or withhold various perks, all sorts of little inside-politics that might matter to Oz, but would mean nothing to outsiders. If a University wants someone like Oz gone, they almost never try to ‘fire’ them. Rather, they work those little inside games in ways that complicate the academic life of the target, and increase the stress level. The idea being to get the faculty member to jump ship voluntarily, and no doubt someone like Oz would have a number of soft landing spots to choose, both in and out of academia.

    As for Dr. Green’s reply to Belluz, the question ‘would you want to be Oz’s patient’ is vague, and depending on how Green interpreted it, he wasn’t necessarily dancing. That is, it could mean ‘would you accept Oz as your surgeon without qualms?’ OR ‘would Oz be your first choice for a surgeon?’ Assuming Green understood the question in the first sense, he went beyond the query to say, in effect, ‘not only do I have confidence in Oz, but so does everyone else on our staff.”

    The telling qualification in his reply is “If Mehmet was there” followed by the remarks about rust and reduced surgical schedule. Reading between the lines, we can guess Green is still fine with Oz’s work NOW, but sees a negative trend and has concerns that Oz may fall below standard at some point in the future. Green may be savvy enough to have been using Belluz to send a message intended for Oz, ‘you’re still OK here, Mehmet, but we’re watching you, and you’d better make sure you take care of business at home first if you want to stay in good standing here.’

  25. #25 Gray Squirrel
    April 17, 2015

    Re. Krebiozen @ 18: Since you brought up hallucinogens (warning, naughty language follows)…

    I recall reading either in one of Orac’s previous columns or in the _New Yorker_ article on Oz, that his wife is a devotee of all things woo, including Reiki. I’m highly inclined to believe that her influence has been a substantial contributing factor to Oz’ turn to the dark side.

    So, re. Krebiozen: when I was young & frisky, a couple of friends and I had a saying: “500 micrograms and a good scr3w can really f— up your objectivity.” Later in life, another friend said that if you want to figure out someone’s otherwise-obscure motives, just put the words “in bed” after what they said.

    So yes, I think there was an “influence” there. And that’s not misogynist either, because it works both ways. I’ve seen men lose their rationality over both women and men, and I’ve seen women lose their rationality over both men and women. It’s one of those sad facts of life and politics that we can hope our species will evolve out of some day.

  26. #26 Orac
    April 17, 2015

    Wow. The reference to GMOs in the letter got my guard up, and then I saw the Hoover affiliations, and I was dreading the possibility RI’ers wouldn’t be concerned, so I’m so relieved Orac, Hellanthus, and palindrom are questioning the motives and tactics.

    Actually, I do seem to be the only one in the skeptical blogosphere who brought this issue up thus far. Everything else I’ve seen written about this is basically an “Attaboy!” bit of praise to the authors. In fairness, though, I didn’t initially get the “tell” of the GMOs as much as I should have in retrospect. Oh, well.

    It’s not even an academic freedom issue unless he’s promoting woo in his scholarly research, administrative functions, teaching (if he does that), or engaging in dubious practices with patients.

    Well, Oz is the director of the Integrative Medicine Program at Columbia; so by definition he is promoting woo in his scholarly research, administrative functions, and teaching. That’s his job as director!

    Unfortunately, in quackademia, promoting woo is no longer something to be ashamed of or something for which an institution might take action.

  27. #27 nutritionprof
    April 17, 2015

    I, too, would like to think that fewer patients are quoting the grand wizard. Unfortunately, like you said, those tales are anecdotal. The docs whose patients do the quoting probably aren’t the ones who come to your conference.

    BTW-will NECSS be available on video for those of us unable to attend?

  28. #28 Doubtful News
    April 17, 2015

    We wrote about it. (Skeptical blogsphere)

    I was waiting to here your reactions since some have called for YOUR dismissal from your employer due to outside activities. While I focused on the fact that Universities don’t do this sort of thing, I linked to this piece in the comments because your views of the document itself was helpful.

  29. #29 Orac
    April 17, 2015

    Ah, I hadn’t seen your post yet when I was writing my post last night.

    However, I didn’t say the skeptical blogosphere hadn’t written about the letter. Several skeptical bloggers have. Rather what I said was that the skeptical blogosphere hadn’t really noted the problems with Dr. Miller and several of the signatories of this letter with respect being rather tightly affiliated with industry.

    In fact, in retrospect, I was probably too easy on these guys and too accepting of the very premise of what they did (writing a letter to Oz’s boss at Columbia trying to get him fired for extracurricular activities), given that what they are trying to do to Oz is the same thing Burzynski supporters and antivaccinationists have tried to do to me on several occasions. Mea culpa. I guess I can be a bit blinded by my dislike of Oz myself sometimes. I’ll watch myself a bit more closely next time. I hope.

  30. #30 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    April 17, 2015

    @nutritionprof

    I believe that the NECSS talks will be up on their YouTube channel. They have some past presentations up there. Working on my own review/recap, as well.

  31. #31 Orac
    April 17, 2015

    I’m told they’ll be up, but no timeline has been given.

  32. #32 shay
    the view from the cheap seats
    April 17, 2015

    I was waiting to here your reactions since some have called for YOUR dismissal from your employer due to outside activities.

    The difference being, of course, that Orac takes on quacks, and Oz promotes them.

  33. #33 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 17, 2015

    @shay – true, but macht nichts. The tactic is at the very least unbecoming. Like a SLAPP, it’s an action intended to shut one up which can be used against anyone for any reason.

  34. #34 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 17, 2015

    Thinking of which, I knew a guy named Max Nicks once. He was pretty insignificant.

  35. #35 shay
    April 17, 2015

    I have to be pedantic, here…machts nichts.

    (my father always wanted to name one of our cats Max Nix. My mother never let him, not sure why).

  36. #36 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 17, 2015

    shay – you are quite correct. The only German phrase I can say with any particular conviction is zwei bier bitte.

  37. #37 Bpeth
    The p is silent
    April 17, 2015

    Dr. Green has his proboscis so far up Dr. Oz’s posterior that he could clean the back of Oz’s teeth with his own tongue.

    Ewwww. This blog seems to be incompatible with lunch.

  38. #38 Helianthus
    April 17, 2015

    @ sadmar

    the ‘GMO=poison’ stuff really gets my back up. If Oz is selling that Kool-Aid, that’s what should be specifically critiqued.

    Oh, I certainly believe Dr Oz certainly has gone for the FUD approach on GMOs, from what I remember, and more conclusively, from what the good Dr has been saying about Arctic apples, as I just read in Orac’s provided link.

    I wasn’t exactly questioning the motives of the letter’s authors. I just found it funny that, in a 4-line paragraph to justify their demand, a full line is about GM crops and the rest is just about vague unscientific medical claims.
    I almost asked jokingly if the letter’s authors received grants from one of the BIgAg. The Pharma shill gambit isn’t that funny, so I let it drop. Maybe I should have 🙁

    @ shay

    I was waiting to here your reactions since some have called for YOUR dismissal from your employer due to outside activities.

    The difference being, of course, that Orac takes on quacks, and Oz promotes them.

    That, and something else mentioned by Dr Green in the interview:

    Orac may be very profligate in his prose, but judging from the occasional mention of “grant time”, or “was in surgery all day”, or “away at a conference”, I have the feeling that Orac’s blogging is coming second to his professional life.

    On the other hand, Dr Oz’ extracurricular activities.do seem to take a rather big portion of his time.

    (just realizing, Sadmar already wrote about this)

    Well, that’s up to Dr Oz employers. If the university’s dean or the board of medicine don’t see any issue with how Dr Oz is splitting his time, that’s not for me to judge.
    However, the misuse of science and the promotion of dubious stuff by Dr Oz should be of concern. That’s not a consequence-free behavior.

  39. #39 TruthCrusader
    California
    April 17, 2015

    Dr. Oz reminds me of David Irving. Although some of Irving’s early academic work had elements of truth, his subsequent Holocaust denial and its rejection, both by fact and in a UK court, has discredited him. As Dr Deborah Lipstadt has eloquently demonstrated, “freedom of speech” does not justify providing a forum for a person–using his academic (and in Dr. Oz’s case medical) degree and accomplishments, however valid they may have been–to spread views that have been proven scientifically invalid. Indeed, it could be argued that Dr. Oz is equally, if not even more dangerous, than Irving, who denies arguing an event –however horrible–that took place over 70 years ago, even if he is trying to foment (or, even if he is not trying, the effect of which is the fomenting of) antisemitism. Dr. Oz is using his forum of falsity to try now to influence people to risk their health, that of their children and often that of the public at large (witness the recent measles outbreak). Does a prestigious academic institution like Columbia really want to impair its own credibility by continuing not only to give Dr. Oz a forum for his discredited claims, but enhance his credibility by continuing to employ him? I would hope not.

  40. #40 Dangerous Bacon
    April 17, 2015

    Actually, the reference to GMOs is a bit less than one line in a 12+ line letter. And Oz’s recent fearmongering about GMOs cross-pollinates (sorry) with antivax nonsense.

    Note that in the article Orac linked to (and one posted on the Genetic Literacy Project site by one of the same authors), Oz gave a unquestioning platform to Zen Honeycutt (I am not making that name up) of Moms Across America, who announced on the show that she’d cured her son of autism by changing his diet to all-organic and non-GMO.

    http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/12/01/sorry-dr-oz-and-jenny-mccarthy-more-scientific-proof-vaccines-gmos-dont-cause-autism/

    Shill arguments are even more common among the anti-GMO crowd than antivaxers, even though a substantial percentage of the close to >2,000 published papers validating GMO safety come from authors unaffiliated with the biotech industry. Whatever the faults of ACSH (whose articles I am largely unfamiliar with), the couple I’ve seen dealing with GM technology agree with opinions of others (scientists, regulators, bloggers etc.) who are not employed or paid by Big Ag.

  41. #41 sadmar
    April 17, 2015

    @ Orac:

    Nice apology, but props for the due skepticism of the motives behind some of the anti-anti-GMO voices, and for having enough concern about the broader political landscape to even know what The Hoover Institute is about. I live in the Bay Area, and besides, more of their stuff relates to my areas of interest (they do so love Ayn Rand), so I wouldn’t necessarily expect a surgical oncologist in MI to even begin to catch the stink in that letter. IMHO, both that caution and the “mea culpa” are the kinds of things that build broader credibility for sbm advocates, and the more of that judiciousness the better. Props also to the commenters who offer constructive critique, e.g. the folks who noted Harriet Hall’s anti-psychology screed on SBM recently read as being too close to Scientology.

    Unfortunately, in quackademia, promoting woo is no longer something to be ashamed of… Oz is the director of the Integrative Medicine Program at Columbia; so by definition he is promoting woo in his scholarly research, administrative functions, and teaching. That’s his job as director!

    Yup. Which means the point of critique there (which I know you know) is not Oz himself, but Columbia. From an academic standpoint, the problem isn’t that Columbia has an Integrative Medicine Program, but that, depending on how they define “Integrative Medicine”, there could be a conflict of intellectual interest with Oz having a leadership role in both that and the Cardiovascular Institute. (Department vice-chair is probably no big deal…) That is, the missions of the two units could be seen as being at odds — which in an academic context could even be considered a good thing, making it all the more problematic for TPTB to install Oz in the directorship of both.

    This IS “something for which an institution might take action”. Not against Oz, but against “the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine” for muddying its component missions. I wouldn’t see a problem with a letter to Dean Dr. Goldman demanding Columbia restrict Oz to running the show in either ‘conventional medicine’ or ‘integrative medicine’ rather than letting him ‘coach both teams’. It’s one thing for a regular faculty member to participate in both, but quite another to call the shots for both.

    But then, the tone of the letter – especially the ad hominem smack of “whatever the nature of his pathology” – reveals Miller and friends don’t give a rats butt about Oz’s post at Columbia, but are just trying to get ‘good pub’ for the Hoover Institute and ACSH, build wider legitimacy to cover their corporate shill activities, and snooker properly independent-minded sbm advocates into supporting their essentially partisan organizations. If they were serious about getting Columbia to do anything about Oz, they wouldn’t approach the Dean all guns ablaze with such a total absence of tact.

  42. #42 sadmar
    April 17, 2015

    @ DB #40:
    IMHO it’s crucial for skeptics to understand that the GMO debate is much bigger than the safety of ingesting GMO foods. For example, none of the ag-policy activists I knew in Iowa back in the 80s would have made a blanket condemnation of all pesticides, and demanded some sort of totally ‘chemical-free’ food production, yet they had deep and valid concerns about how certain pesticides were being used. Food can be perfectly safe, nutritious and healthy while the methods used to produce it have unconscionable ecological and economic consequences.

    The fact that anti-vaxers fantasize pharma-shills has no relevance to the general validity of ‘shill critiques.’ In fact, like all effective propaganda, the anti-vax pharma-shill-gambit works by twisting and shifting a kernal of truth. There ARE shills, for all kinds of things in all kinds of forms. Advertising and PR are ubiquitous and inescapable. Debord’s notion of ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ could be reformulated as ‘The Society of The Shill’.

    The anti-vaxers have no case there because it’s relatively easy to demonstrate that vaccines are not profitable enough, or genuinely problematic enough, to warrant the expense and effort of shilling for them. Asthma inhalers or new psych meds are another story altogether. Anyone who trusts a giant pharma company (there being no unified ‘Big Pharma’ conspiracy) or an industrial ag company like Monsanto farther than they can spit is as blind as the critic who asserts that anything and everything that comes from a big corporation must therefore be evil and harmful. They’d cut your moms’ throat to make a buck, but they’d eradicate HIV to make a buck too. Critique would be easy if the two were always mutually exclusive, but if the chips fall that way they’d cut your mom’s throat to guarantee profits for curing cancer.

    Corporate (and government) activity is a product of very complex intersections of interests and shifting realtiies-on-the-ground, and can really only be judged on a case-by-case basis. The fact “a substantial percentage of the close to >2,000 published papers validating GMO safety come from authors unaffiliated with the biotech industry” is hardly evidence that GMO-shills do not exist, do not yield significant influence, or do not have pernicious social effects. Those studies get funding from somewhere, and get accepted for publication for some reason. The motives of the individual researchers could be as pure as the driven snow, yet there could be forces at work ensuring they’re the ones getting the financial support and public notice. Which would not, in itself, mean any meta-shill-influence there is a bad thing. Any advocate of anything is probably going to want to “accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative.” The question is: is there a truly serious negative being buried by the application of socio-economic power in this process? For vaccines, I’m convinced the answer is ‘No’. For the agricultural/economic practices used to produce GMOs, I’m not at all convinced.

    Again, this has nothing to do with the concept of genetic modification per se, but rather how it has been implemented in corporate practice. If the Miller letter had taken Oz to task specifically for scaremongering of the “GMO foods will poison your kids” variety, no problem. But it didn’t. It took the broad brush in demonizing anti-GMO arguments. Hoover institute fellows aren’t stupid. They know what they’re doing. That wasn’t a careless error in focus. It was the point.

    It’s incumbent on skeptics and ‘pro-science’ folks to not conflate different critiques, to examine these issues on a case-by-case basis, pull off the narrow-view blinders and consider all the angles, not just the genuine pseudo-science bs that may be in the spotlight.

  43. #43 Anise
    Portland, Oregon
    April 17, 2015

    Dr. Oz was sunk back in 2012, in my opinion. That’s when he made his immortal pronouncement that human embryonic stem cell research was dead, because induced pluripotent stem cells now existed. That kind of propaganda should be left to the Catholic Church, because they’re more than happy to push it, except that they tend to favor adult stem cells instead.

  44. #44 Denice Walter
    April 17, 2015

    It seems that Mikey is not at all pleased with the doctors’ letter:

    Vicious attack on Dr Oz actually by biotech mafia: plot to destroy Oz launched after episode on glyphosate threats went viral ( Natural News, today).

    He also doesn’t like Wikip—-.

    Fortunately, Orac has not yet been initiated in THAT mob.
    I imagine that the clothes aren’t bad.

  45. #45 Tim
    April 17, 2015

    is as blind as the critic who asserts that anything and everything that comes from a big corporation must therefore be evil and harmful. They’d cut your moms’ throat to make a buck, but they’d eradicate HIV to make a buck too. Critique would be easy if the two were always mutually exclusive, but if the chips fall that way they’d cut your mom’s throat to guarantee profits for curing cancer.

    ‘Anything and everything that comes from a big corporation’ does not have to be detrimental; It is only the case that it invariably is. It is the nature of The Beast to go out of the way to indenture various parts of ‘the masses’ with induced harm.

    If it is policy, it is generally bad. If it is ubiquitous for no other reason than an edict then it is pernicios. If it is prohibited, then it is something that counters the bad thing that was imposed.

    {Sorry, sadmar; I cut my teeth on cannabis prohibition and the greater good. As we endure a ‘corporatocracy’, I can not but point the finger towards the progenitors of misery and chemical mutation and say AEHHHHH! in my lowdest, body-snatched voice.}

  46. #46 Orac
    April 17, 2015

    But then, the tone of the letter – especially the ad hominem smack of “whatever the nature of his pathology” – reveals Miller and friends don’t give a rats butt about Oz’s post at Columbia, but are just trying to get ‘good pub’ for the Hoover Institute and ACSH, build wider legitimacy to cover their corporate shill activities, and snooker properly independent-minded sbm advocates into supporting their essentially partisan organizations. If they were serious about getting Columbia to do anything about Oz, they wouldn’t approach the Dean all guns ablaze with such a total absence of tact.

    Yep. It was a publicity stunt. On its website, ACSH is gloating over all the press coverage about doctors demanding that Columbia fire Dr. Oz. And, hoo boy, are they full of themselves. Get a load of this:

    ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom, a long time, vocal critic of Dr. Oz said, “Every once in while the right thing happens. This is one of those times. The line between ‘doctor’ Oz and ‘TV personality’ Oz has been blurred for a long time, leading many American’s to equate the two, and, in doing so perpetuating the ‘fame equals credibility’ myth. Dr. Miller’s letter has done much to dismantle this myth. It is well past the time that people finally learn the difference between real medicine and entertainment.”

    Uh, no. Compared to, for example, Senator Claire McCaskill’s hearings in which she slowly roasted Dr. Oz for his promotion of various dietary supplements as miracle weight loss cures, Dr. Miller’s letter has done nothing of the sort. It’s a single shot. Columbia has already predictably responded, and so has Dr. Oz:

    I bring the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves. We provide multiple points of view, including mine which is offered without conflict of interest. That doesn’t sit well with certain agendas which distort the facts. For example, I do not claim that GMO foods are dangerous, but believe that they should be labeled like they are in most countries around the world. I will address this on the show next week.

    The press has moved on, and through their transparent harping on GMOs, Miller and company have given Dr. Oz an obvious tact to take in responding: Focus on the GMO complaint; ignore everything else, particularly the far more serious complaints about his spreading quackery through his show. Dr. Oz will easily be able to paint himself “reasonable” and having reasonable concerns about GMOs being attacked by industry shills, which at least half of the signatories of that letter are.

  47. #47 MarkN
    April 17, 2015

    One day, we will have the technology to bioprint another Dr Oz. One without quackademery. One that can use evidence-based medicine. One that can finally take the extra tonnage and aligator tears away from Highness Oprah. One day….yes we can.

    Mind blown.

  48. #48 Dennis
    NJ
    April 18, 2015

    I appreciated your critique of Dr. Oz. I don’t watch the show regularly, but I have caught pieces of it on televisions in doctor’s waiting rooms. (Problem? . . .) But even with my limited exposure to the show, I recall being dubious about what I thought was exaggeration on his part.

    On the other hand, is worshiping at the alter of so-called “science-based medicine” working out really that well? Isn’t it every other week that some new “scientific” finding emerges disputing previous “scientific” findings? Recently, fat was “found” to not be as detrimental to health as previously “found.” And fish oil was “found” to not be as beneficial as previously “found.”

    I have seen science correct and re-correct itself on these issues: 8 glasses of water/day; amount of protein; coffee–good or bad; how much is healthy exercise?; how much sleep does one need?; can you be fat and healthy?

    Dr.Oz doesn’t say as much, but perhaps he’s tapping into that Wizard of Oz placebo effect. Belief leads to cure. I recall some doctor saying that his job was mostly helping the patient’s body heal itself. Sounds “quacky” at this point, but I think some day medicine will discover a clear picture how the mind heals the body.

    And, conversely, how the mind can make the body ill, or prevent its healing itself. (the “nocebo effect”).

    So, absent Oz being reckless like, “Forget surgery. Just slap some of this goop on that melanoma . . .”, the only protection the public may need from him is a prominent disclaimer at the beginning of his show: “Any advice given by Dr. Oz should be taken with a grain of salt and any outcomes from the advice to Dr. Oz’s patients, whether healthy or deadly, is purely coincidental. Now, on with the show.”

    Dennis

  49. #49 KayMarie
    April 18, 2015

    One problem with most people’s understanding of scientists completely and totally changing their minds every other weeks is much more a problem of headline writers and marketers who refuse to actually understand the underlying science and boil down the rather complex and nuanced results of the studies to a simple easy to understand and wrong statement of not really a fact.

    By what mechanism do you think we will discover that all illness is a brain fart and all cures are purely mental?

    AFAIK Dr Oz hasn’t fallen under the sway of the black salve cultists there are plenty of you can’t ever trust anything science says types who are spreading the good word about the black salve which is caustic enough to cause something to fall off when you use it, just may not be the tumor (even internal ones, not just melanomas) that has been sucked through the skin.

  50. #50 Old Rockin' Dave
    Planet of the Monkeys (The apes were busy).
    April 18, 2015

    Dr. Oz’s activities outside the hospital and school are in fact fair game for complaint to Columbia. They constitute a gross and crass breach of medical ethics. He uses his position and the prestige and authority he derives from it to divert patients from real and effective medicine to quackery and deceptive practices. That certainly should be a concern of his employers.
    I say can the son of a bitch.

  51. #51 Old Rockin' Dave
    Planet of the Lemurs (The monkeys didn't care for my sense of humor.)
    April 18, 2015

    Surgeons will rarely speak ill of colleagues without either major incompetence from said colleague or deadly serious personal animus. There are some other ways to separate the wheat from the chaff.
    You can ask docs from related medical (as opposed to surgical) specialties. Neurologists for neurosurgeons, cardiologists for thoracic surgeons, and so on.
    You can also ask OR nurses, who see them where the metal meets the flesh day in and day out. After a while they can suss out who’s faking it.
    Anesthesiologists are also a good source of information for the same reasons. More than once I have heard in the OR comments to assisting residents and PA’s to the effect of “Don’t worry about that, anesthesia will take care of it” to cover things like serious intraoperative blood loss caused by the surgeon in the first place.
    It should be obvious that any comments should be solicited in absolute privacy and confidence.

  52. #52 darwinslapdog
    NW
    April 18, 2015

    When I was an undergraduate, a university in my state that is more prestigious than mine had to bear the humiliation of having a tenured professor of Biology who believed in, lectured about, and wrote books about….BIGFOOT. In the end, we just laughed about it and tried to appreciate all aspects of academic freedom.

    The difference with Oz, however, is that he is an MD, and that carries the responsibility of peoples’ health. Doctors should not be “entertainers” unless their act doesn’t include medical advice. Having heard the McCaskill hearing, I would bet that Oz would deny that he offers medical advice. His Weaseliness would say that he is “only trying to encourage my dear, dear viewers to lead a healthy life and help them shed those unwanted pounds, blah, blah, blah…”

  53. #53 Spectator
    April 18, 2015

    @Dennis #48

    You’ve brought up an important point, perhaps two.
    Science and newspaper science are less related than music and Lite FM. Newspapers need a catchy headline, and “something something drosophelia flux diode shows transposition to pho electrochromic state” isn’t going to do it.

    Second, from admittedly very little knowledge of the field, it seems like the science around nutrition and diet is sorta an odd relative, but the basics are understood. If you ask today or 10, 20 or 40 years ago I believe you’d get agreement among scientists to “eat turnips not Twinkies, eat vegetables don’t be one, and don’t stuff your face all day”.

    Science means, in essence, the discipline of understanding how Nature works in ways that can be tested and confirmed or disproved.

  54. #54 Orac
    April 18, 2015

    It seems that Mikey is not at all pleased with the doctors’ letter:

    Vicious attack on Dr Oz actually by biotech mafia: plot to destroy Oz launched after episode on glyphosate threats went viral (Natural News, today).

    Yes, a big part of the problem with Miller’s letter (besides its being just a blip and one to two day annoyance to Columbia and Oz is that Miler’s timing and background make it so very, very easy for Mikey to launch such an attack on him, especially since Miller hasn’t done anything like this until Dr. Oz attacked GMOs. Fire up the quackery machine? Miller grumbles a bit. Attack GMOs? Miller goes into full attack mode with this letter calling for Columbia to fire Oz.

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Henry_I._Miller

    And ACSH is fairly well known for representing industry viewpoints:

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/American_Council_on_Science_and_Health

    Too easy. I can predict pretty closely what Dr. Oz will say next week when he “defends” himself. He’ll paint himself as having been attacked by industry and as taking a “reasonable” middle way. Then he’ll double down on the anti-GMO fear mongering and try to paint it as being “dangerous” to “them,” if you know what I mean.

  55. #55 Robert L Bell
    April 18, 2015

    Interesting to read your remarks on the American Council on Science and Health, as I don’t personally follow that particular organization but I have come to the same kinds of conclusions about the Union of Concerned Scientists. Generally they do good work, and in so far as they are a lefty propaganda I generally agree with what they recommend. But, and you knew there was a but, as time goes on and the old guard retires and the new crowd takes over I get the sense that they are getting more comfortable with letting the political outcome take precedence over the established science.

    Which is dangerous, very dangerous, for on these politicized topics the first whiff of bias grants permission to the other side to sneer at your work for the next thousand years. You don’t even have to be biased in fact, just allow any pretext and anything you say goes down the garbage chute.

    The only protection is to stick rigorously to the evidence, and to be seen as sticking rigorously to the evidence.

  56. #56 johnny
    April 19, 2015

    ” Dr. Offit 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………..nuff said

    Ad hom attacks, but what more can we expect from the Great Orac? I mean flu vaccine woo is sold every year, this year it’s “3% effective”. What actually is your standard?

    When placebo knee surgery is more effective than ‘real knee surgery’ may be doctors are full of bullshit and it is just marketing that gets them to the table.

    All those pharma shills who signed the petition – there there- it’s so naughty knocking EBM, even if it is a sandcastle. I wonder what the survival stats are from your operations?

  57. #57 johnny
    April 19, 2015

    Into moderation again – no links, no rude words unless of course you count the Gorski or Offit expletive?

  58. #58 Hannah
    Pretoria
    April 19, 2015

    I am commenting on this post as part of an assignment set by the University of Pretoria.

    It is disheartening to see that there are in-the-know professionals happily spreading dubious information and feeding it to the general public as fact. Unfortunately, much of the general population will accept this information without further research because they’ve heard that whoever is telling them these tales has some qualification from some university and is, therefore, a professional. One would expect that those who are actually qualified professionals would feel some form of moral obligation to educate the population about what is science and what is pseudoscience (or, in this case, pseudo-medicine).
    Learning that Dr. Oz is both educated and respected in the medical field is upsetting because it makes it clear that he is simply capitalizing on this dubious medicine. One would also think that his employers would keep some kind of record of what Dr. Oz tells the public is true and hold accountable for this, at least to some extent.

  59. #59 KayMarie
    April 19, 2015

    Hey johnny maybe bull**** isn’t a dirty word in your world but that word for feces is typically on most bad word lists, even the ones that are generated by the software company.

  60. #60 MarkN
    April 19, 2015

    Maybe it was a bs meter telling poor Johnny to get a real education on infectious disease and stop wasting time regurgitating crap as found on the Google U blogospheres.

  61. #61 Orac
    April 19, 2015

    Learning that Dr. Oz is both educated and respected in the medical field is upsetting because it makes it clear that he is simply capitalizing on this dubious medicine. One would also think that his employers would keep some kind of record of what Dr. Oz tells the public is true and hold accountable for this, at least to some extent.

    Actually, although Dr. Oz is definitely educated, it would be more accurate to say that he was respected in the medical field. In the years since he embraced quackery, the level of respect he’s enjoyed from his fellow surgeons and physicians has been steadily declining, to the point where it seems that pretty much no physician other than quacks respects Oz any more. It’s an amazing and depressing downfall after Oz had been so incredibly productive scientifically back in the 1990s.

  62. #62 jrkrideaku
    At the bottom of the lake (the bottom end, that is).
    April 19, 2015

    OT but nice 🙂
    http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2015/04/18/judge-orders-10-year-old-girl-be-vaccinated-for-measles-against-moms-wishes.html

    Harper wrote that the mother is “an adherent to the homeopathic approach to health and treatment,” who brought in two of what he described as “alleged experts” to back up her claims that vaccines are harmful.

    I’d love to know who the ci-disant experts were.

  63. #63 Dangerous Bacon
    April 19, 2015

    Orac: “Dr. Oz will easily be able to paint himself “reasonable” and having reasonable concerns about GMOs being attacked by industry shills, which at least half of the signatories of that letter are.”

    Since I’d define “industry shill” as someone who spouts an industry line on a health issue while ignoring compelling data that contradicts that line – has anyone at ACSH actually done this with respect to GMOs?

    Or would it be more accurate to say that Oz can describe himself as a person “having reasonable concerns about GMOs being attacked by scientists who can readily be painted as industry shills”?

  64. #64 Narad
    April 19, 2015

    I’d love to know who the ci-disant experts were.

    “d. Jacinta Willems, Naturopathic Doctor
    “e. Nicole Marie Lederman, Doctor of Chiropractic”

    It’s here.

  65. #65 Denice Walter
    April 19, 2015

    And of course, Mikey has another article today:

    Mainstream Media FAIL: Sleazy doctors attacking Doctor Oz have histories of criminality, fraud and ties to Monsanto’s “Discredit Bureau”

    The mainstream media didn’t investigate those who wrote the letter, he says: if they did their jobs properly, they would have found that this group is indeed a writhing nest of vipers- criminals convicted of fraud and those who have ties to an industry front group.

    The solution to the problem is obvious: “REAL JOURNALISM” ( caps. his) which obviously is what Natural News does every single day.

    Funny, I hear the same thing at least thrice weekly at PRN.
    As well as at Age of Autism and at Jake’s gossip-oriented meet and greet.

    These people know about as much about journalism as does the average housecat but at least the housecat has enough sense to not discuss the subject publicly on the internet in order to garner the attention of the even more clueless.

    Hilariously, Mike and company can’t imagine that their readers are intellectually capable of turning that question back on him and the other authors of those claims:
    Is Mike’s writing free of conflicts of interest?
    Or does he want to disparage possible clients of SBM as well as the media in general? Similarly Null.
    They sell quasi-medicine and what they laughably call ‘news’ and ‘investigative journalism’.

    AoA and others in that camp sell a theory which protects their self-esteem and allows them a platform- which they wouldn’t have otherwise- where they play-act and cosplay as scientists, psychologists and journalists on a daily basis, gathering a small, similarly confused army of the likeminded.

  66. #66 Liz
    WA
    April 19, 2015

    Really sad about Oz. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, he performed both heart transplants that my childhood friend needed. She lived to be 26 when most docs told her parents she would be dead by age 5.

  67. #67 Narad
    April 19, 2015

    As well as at Age of Autism

    I could not help but note that, at the end of D’Ohlmsted’s analysis of why antivaccine cranks are completely unlike AGW cranks, he, ah, quotes Michael Crichton.

  68. #68 jrkrideaku
    At the bottom of the lake (the bottom end, that is).
    April 19, 2015

    @ 64 Narad
    Thanks for the link, it made great reading. That was some pissed-off judge. Obviously his first encounter with anti-vaxers and he did not seem impressed.

    Pity the respondent had not managed to have Dr. Wakefield (Struck-off) and Mike Adams as her expert witnesses.

  69. #69 herr doktor bimler
    April 20, 2015

    These people know about as much about journalism as does the average housecat

    Our housecats at least drag in their own dead rats rather than simply regurgitating a dead rat press release from someone else.

  70. #70 JP
    April 20, 2015

    Many housecats are in general more impressive than quacks. One of my best friends has a cat who was feral for about half a year – his friend’s jerk ex-wife basically abandoned her. Sylvia is a mighty hunter among cats due to the experience, and once brought an adult rabbit up to the front porch where she proceeded to grip the neck and rip the spine out of it. Now that cat is metal.

  71. #71 JP
    April 20, 2015

    ^ Tim would’ve taken the cat back himself, but was stretched kind of too thin having sole custody of two daughters to take care of a half-feral cat.

  72. […] about this, but, then again, I seem to say that fairly frequently. Be that as it may, on Friday I wrote about a letter sent to Lee Goldman, MD, the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia […]

  73. […] their own conflicts of interest (if you want to know more about them check this Al Jazeera post and this one by Orac). One of the signatures is from Dr. Gilbert Ross who lost his medical license (it was apparently […]

  74. #74 GMOz | Donal
    April 20, 2015

    […] discussed on Respectful Insolence at Science Blogs, many of the undersignatories had dubious claims to being pure scientists […]

  75. […] in one area, and it’s attacking Oz for pseudoscience?” pointed out Dr. David Gorski in his blog about the Columbia […]

  76. #76 shay
    April 20, 2015

    Narad@64:

    …locked in a never ending spiral of blind acceptance of statements by individuals who claim to be experts in the field in which they are not.

    In the words of Spencer Tracy: cherce.

  77. […] would appear that some people got the impression that, just because I questioned whether a recent publicity stunt in which ten doctors and researchers, led by a well-known pro-GMO […]

  78. #78 johnny
    April 21, 2015

    funny how the word quack was originally used to describe the proper doctor and the word pharma derives from the witch.

    Meanwhile most of the critique on this thread, a yawning again, could be applied to almost every ‘proper doctor activity’ almost on a daily basis.

    Notice NARAD the red knob still can’t comment on the trashing of polio vaccine by Susan Humphries – takes a proper doctor to know one

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Twch-T-n8Ns

    Love the shots of proper doctors spraying kids with DDT

  79. #79 johnny
    April 21, 2015

    business as usual at Orac central then

  80. #80 Lawrence
    April 21, 2015

    Johnny’s always good for a laugh, isn’t he?

    http://americanloons.blogspot.com/2013/11/783-suzanne-humphries.html

  81. #81 JGC
    April 21, 2015

    Johnny, can you provide a citation to the article by Dr. Humphries trashing the polio vaccine, published in a first or second tier peer-reviewed scientific journal? Such journals (not Youtube videos) are, after all, the forum in which working scientists present evidence and support and/or defend the conclusions they have drawn from them.

  82. #82 shay
    April 21, 2015

    That would require Humphries to actually be a working scientist.

  83. #83 Denice Walter
    April 21, 2015

    I have recently had the sublime pleasure** of listening to two 6 minute segments of a tape of Humphries on the Gary Null Show ( archived @ PRN, yesterday and Friday- four more are promised- lucky us!) wherein she details her discovery of how vaccines cause kidney failure and/ or death while working in a unit that treated kidney failure and administered dialysis. She noted the connection and told her superiors. Apparently, her criticisms of policy to vaccinate severely ill patients fell on deaf ears. She doesn’t work there any more.

    ** I often say the exact opposite of what I mean- it’s edgy.

  84. #84 KayMarie
    April 21, 2015

    I occasionally unconciously replace a word I meant to say with it’s antonym while speaking, I thought I was glitchy now I know I’m edgy. Much better!

  85. #85 Denice Walter
    April 21, 2015

    @ KayMarie:

    I learned this from my father who used it to great affect- usually to express his derision for family members.

  86. #86 Denice Walter
    April 21, 2015

    That should be effect

  87. […] “[Oz] has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain,” the authors wrote. […]

  88. #88 DLC
    A place close to Reality-land.
    April 23, 2015

    Just tonight there was a segment on CNN where the host, aided by Dr Drew Pinsky, was attempting to defend Dr Oz. Pointing out that Oz has backpedaled on the diet pill “miracle” statement. It was anger-inducing, because Pinsky seemed to be making much of Dr Oz being “A General” in the medical “Army” , and how producers just get him to read what’s on the teleprompter, and how he’s just trying to gain popularity so he can help people. Sorry, not buying it. I used to have some respect for Pinsky, too.

  89. #89 ken
    April 24, 2015

    More Info on one of the signers – Paging Dr. Ross
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2005/11/paging-dr-ross
    “But Ross may not be ACSH’s most prudent choice to question the credibility of other doctors, scientists, and researchers. Although the biography posted on the organization’s website doesn’t mention it, Ross actually had to abandon medicine on July 24, 1995, when his license to practice as a physician in New York was revoked by the unanimous vote of a state administrative review board for professional misconduct.
    Instead of tending to patients, Ross spent all of 1996 at a federal prison camp in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania, having being sentenced to 46 months in prison for his participation in a scheme that ultimately defrauded New York’s Medicaid program of approximately $8 million. During a three-and-a-half-week jury trial, federal prosecutors laid bare Ross’ participation in an enterprise, headed by one Mohammed Sohail Khan, to operate four sham medical clinics in New York City. For his scam to work, Khan needed doctors who could qualify as Medicaid providers, and Ross responded to an ad in the New York Times promising “Very, very good $$.”

  90. […] “[Oz] has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain,” the authors wrote. […]

  91. […] wither with the Hoover Institution or the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH)—or both—wrote a letter to Lee Goldman, MD, the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University complaining that […]

  92. […] Things for you: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/04/17/americas-quack-dissected-yet-again/ […]

  93. […] … homeopathy, faith healing, dubious unproven (and almost certainly nonexistent) links between cell phones and breast cancer, GMO fear mongering, promotion of the antivaccine views of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and even psychic scammers like John Edward and Theresa Caputo.  [via ScienceBlog] […]

  94. #94 G. Wayne Hild
    Texas
    April 25, 2015

    I have to disagree with the statement that 100 surgeries a year is a light load,one every 2.6 days and overall some of my friends would analyze this report as a rant and those being attacked by the supposed reputable physicians had every right to ignore them and bar them from attending any event sponsored by OZ.

    • #95 Orac
      April 25, 2015

      Are you a surgeon? No? Then I don’t care that much what you think about Oz’s case load.

  95. #96 Phil
    May 3, 2015

    Why complain to Columbia University? Why not make an ethics complaint to the state Medical Board?

  96. #97 Bork
    New York
    May 5, 2015

    Oz peddles quackery. But you’re promoting ‘scientists’ associated with the politically motivated ‘science’ group “American Council on Science and Health.” The irony of a group known for denying the dangers of asbestos, dioxin and global warming to focus on outrage on Dr. Oz is rich.

  97. […] there’s the Dr. Oz incident. As you recall, ten doctors did indeed write an article to Columbia University’s dean in essence asking him to fire Oz because of his peddling of anti-GMO pseudoscience and medical […]

  98. #99 Karen
    United States
    June 15, 2015

    I love the Dr. Oz show. I learn so much and I have improved my health and well being because of this show. It’s not Dr. Oz that has made me improve but some of the experts he has on the show. Dr. Oz hardly says much at all. He always has a bunch of guests discussing their area of expertise. Maybe the Dr. Oz show has said things that weren’t right, but I don’t care. I take what helps me for my situation and in the end, feel healthier. I try to exercise and eat better. I lost 5#, yay.

  99. #100 Karen
    Sandy Utah
    June 15, 2015

    I love the Dr. Oz show. It has helped me lose weight. I eat better and exercise. Thanks to this show. Dr. Oz has guests that talk about their expertise. They motivate me. I take or leave what ever they say. I don’t do every little thing that they talk about. Dr. Oz show is the best!

  100. #101 Dangerous Bacon
    June 15, 2015

    I have lost 5~ and 18@ just reading your posts, yay.

  101. #102 Chris
    June 15, 2015

    Karen, it looks like some oversight is coming and Dr. Oz can only get better, because some folks want the information he gives to be accurate:
    http://www.doctorsinoz.com/blog/doctors-unite/

  102. #103 Narad
    June 15, 2015

    I get sort of an 8 cent per comment, Postloopish vibe from Karen.

  103. #104 herr doktor bimler
    June 15, 2015

    I get sort of an 8 cent per comment, Postloopish vibe

    Shirley a bot.

  104. #105 Narad
    June 16, 2015

    Shirley a bot.

    Not so Shirley, if you ask me. Direct-injection bots to wp-comments-post.php are pretty much toast aside from indifference. Note that K. tried twice as a result of the whole automod setup.

    There’s not even evidence that it attempted to deliver a URL payload. I’m going with victim of a WAHM scam. ROI is ROI, after all.

  105. #106 herr doktor bimler
    June 16, 2015

    At a high enough level of scripting, the difference between a software bot and a meatbot is nugatory.

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