Dr. Mehmet Oz: Gone completely over to the Dark Side

For some reason, I’ve tended to give Dr. Mehmet Oz a bit of a free pass when it comes to promoting woo. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I just haven’t paid that much attention to him. Perhaps it’s because, even when he was on Oprah’s show, he didn’t delve as deeply into the woo as her other frequent guests, such as Christiane Northrup, Suzanne Sommers, or Jenny McCarthy. The one or two times I saw him with Oprah, usually online because I’m never home to watch Oprah during the day and on those rare days when I am home on a weekeday, trust me, I don’t watch Oprah. Then Dr. Oz got his own show, thanks to the patronage of Oprah Winfrey. Still, I didn’t pay that much attention because, well, if I wasn’t going to watch Oprah on my rare days off I sure as hell wasn’t going to watch The Dr. Oz Show.

In any case, I always knew Dr. Oz was into the woo, but the times I saw him the worst I could say about him was that he pushed diet and exercise, which was fine, and that he seemed a bit prone to pushing acupuncture and other “soft” bits of pseudoscience. On the plus side, unlike so much of the “alt-med” movement, he also appeared not to be anti-vaccine in any way, and, indeed, I saw him stating unequivocally that children should receive their vaccines according to the recommended schedule. Maybe I wasn’t so hard on him because he’s a cardiac surgeon, and it was hard for me to believe that someone who does seriously hard-ass surgery like cardiac surgery could go too far in the woo. On the other hand, I should have learned the lesson from Dr. Michael Egnor and his major crank magnetism. The bottom line is that I gave Dr. Oz too much of a pass and didn’t pay much attention to him. It was my mistake, and one I don’t intent to make again, at least not with Dr. Oz.

What brought this on is an episode of his show that Dr. Oz did last week called Dr. Oz’s Ultimate Alternative Medicine Secrets. I can’t watch the clip I just linked to because it’s region-restricted, but I was made aware of this show by a press release sent out by Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC. This press release announced:

Seattle, WA (PRWEB) January 9, 2010 — Reiki Masters across America and the world had cause for celebration on January 6 when Dr. Mehmet Oz revealed his Ultimate Alternative Medicine Secrets for 2010 during his nationally broadcast afternoon talk show. He ranked Reiki #1. Dr. Oz said, “Reiki is one of my favorites, we’ve been using it for years in the Oz family, and we swear by it.”

Before his popularity as a TV personality through his five-year association with Oprah, Dr. Oz incorporated Reiki into his open-heart surgeries through the assistance of Reiki Master Pamela Miles. On the show, Miles spoke about the benefits of Reiki and offered a demonstration to an audience member who had a headache, which quickly disappeared.

Of course, this press release is highly self-serving (what press release isn’t?) in that it Rose De Dan, the founder of Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing, as far as I could tell, wasn’t on the episode of Dr. Oz’s show discussing reiki and is simply taking advantage of the Dr. Oz’s name in order to promote his reiki practice.

Although I didn’t see the episode, I did come across this recap of the show, and it is clear that the woo is strong in Dr. Oz. True, most of what he recommends is fairly pedestrian. For instance, he recommends mud baths for arthritis, which probably don’t actually help the pathology of arthritis but probably do make people feel better for the same reason that a warm bath makes people with arthritis feel better. He also recommends black cohosh and sage for menopausal symptoms, even though the evidence is weak at best, and infrared saunas for the prevention of colds and flu, even though there is virtually no evidence that they are effective. Worse, he advocates cupping for circulation, which is pretty much pure quackery. All of this, apparently, was demonstrated on audience members in what sounds from the account disturbingly like a session with Benny Hinn or Peter Popoff.

I mention those two old frauds of faith healers because apparently Dr. Oz’s number one favorite “alternative medicine” treatment is reiki. That’s right, reiki, which is at its core nothing more than faith healing without Christianity. It’s the laying on of hands, nothing more, the only difference between reiki masters and Hinn or Popoff being that reiki is based on Eastern mysticism rather than Christian beliefs. Indeed, the founder of reiki, Dr. Usui, even “discovered” reiki after fasting and meditating on a mountain for 21 days in a story a lot like that of Jesus going into the wilderness for 40 days to pray and face temptation before coming back to start his ministry. Reiki is every bit as much quackery as the faith healing of Benny Hinn and Peter Popoff.

And Dr. Oz names it as his favorite alt-med modality. He even uses reiki masters in the operating room for his patients. Of course, I can’t help but wonder where Dr. Oz gets the time to keep his operative skills up doing an hour long show five days a week or where he finds time even to see patients and operate any more. I also can’t help but think he must have the most understanding surgical partners in the world, given that they must have to cover for him almost constantly while he’s away doing shows, public appearances, and such.

Whatever the case, this sealed it for me. Dr. Oz is completely over on the Dark Side. I realize that he went over to the Dark Side a long time ago; I simply hadn’t noticed that his journey to the Dark Side was complete. I thought there was still hope. Another thing that sealed it for me was a little discovery I made while researching this post. That discovery? Dr. Oz is married to a reiki master.

Sleeping with the enemy indeed.