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The Wacky Ignorant Dr. Oz, Part I

May 5, 2013

Dr. Oz is back at it again, spreading ignorance across our fine land. But before I get to the most recent example ….

A story about the good doctor that appeared earlier this year in the New Yorker included some fine quotes about his medical statements that have little to no evidence to back them up. From a surgeon professor colleague in New York:

“Sometimes Mehmet will entertain wacky ideas—particularly if they are wacky and have entertainment value.”

From Eric Topol, MD, who is a very evidence-based cardiologist:

“When he tells people the number of sexual encounters they need each year to improve their lives in a specific way, or how to lose weight in three days—this is simply lunacy. The problem is that he is eloquent and talented, and some of what he says clearly provides a service we need. But how are consumers to know what is real and what is magic? Because Mehmet offers both as if they were one.”

And finally, his comment that prompted this post was from a YouDocs column on April 29. He said:

When you get an annual physical, if you can find out you have high cholesterol and start taking a statin, for example, you’ll lower your risk of heart disease and lower long-term healthcare costs for you and your company. Win-win.

Readers of my blog well know why this statement is utter nonsense. Annual physicals are essentially worthless and screening and treating high cholesterol does not lower healthcare costs. See old posts for longer explanations.

I realize that ignorant is a strong word, but it is completely accurate in his case. According to Dictionary.com, ignorant is defined as: lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.  If he’s not ignorant, then he’s either a compulsive liar or a charlatan. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he is just ignorant.

Unfortunately, because he is a good entertainer, Dr. Oz influences Americans. The irony is that this ignorant nonsense he spreads helps fuel efforts by the non-healthcare industries to pursue wellness plans in a futile attempt to lower healthcare costs. This distraction is the excuse many employers use to justify not attacking the deeper causes of exorbitantly expensive U.S. healthcare costs. This means fewer people have healthcare coverage than could, because it costs so much, and the stress and bankruptcies caused by excessive healthcare costs are associated with poorer quality of life and reduced life expectancies.

So in an indirect way, Dr. Oz is actually shortening the lives of Americans. I suspect he is ignorant of this perspective as well.

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