Just in time for April Fools’ Day…Dr. Oz and the Pigasus Awards!

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Ah, April Fools’ Day!

I had thought of trying to do a typical April Fools’ Day post, you know, something like trying to write something but the last time I tried to do that it fell really flat, so flat that I’m not even going to link to it. It’s better not to remind my readers of my jokes that fell completely flat. Better to move on to a more appropriate April Fools’ Day topic, a topic like the James Randi Educational Foundation’s annual Pigasus Awards. The basic idea is to give recognition where recognition is due for the five worst promoters of nonsense from the previous year.

For 2011, there are five very “worthy” award recipients. Two of them were what I would call “frequent fliers” on this blog, so to speak. For example, JREF gave Andrew Wakefield its Refusal to Face Reality Award, which is clearly richly deserved. Just type “Andrew Wakefield” in the search box of this blog if you don’t believe me. Wakefield is appropriately characterized as the researcher

…who launched the modern anti-vaccine panic with unfounded statements linking the MMR vaccine with autism that were not borne out by any research, even his own. In 2010, The Lancet retracted his paper on the MMR vaccine, and this year the British medical journal BMJ called Wakefield’s paper an outright fraud, finding “clear evidence of falsification of data” and that “he sought to exploit the ensuing MMR scare for financial gain,” taking more than $674,000 from lawyers who intended to sue vaccine manufacturers. Yet Wakefield continues to ask the public to believe he is the victim. In a recent article in NaturalNews, Wakefield called the American Academy of Pediatrics and The Lancet “instruments of a state that I don’t really want to be associated with.”

Yes, the hero of the anti-vaccine movement is certainly a “worthy” recipient for such a prize!

Then there’s Dr. Mehmet Oz, “America’s doctor.” Dr. Oz is a relatively new frequent topic of this blog. That’s because, although Dr. Oz has been borderline flaky for a long time, it was only over the last several months (the last three months, actually) that he went completely off the deep end, defending a man whom I consider to be one of the foremost purveyors of quackery on the Internet, Dr Joe Mercola; inviting a yogi on the show who promoted Ayruvedic medicine; promoting a faith healer; and finally, featuring self-proclaimed psychic medium John Edward and even asking whether psychics are the new therapists. As JREF so aptly states in its presentation of the Media Pigasus Award, Dr. Oz

…has done such a disservice to his TV viewers by promoting quack medical practices that he is now the first person to win a Pigasus two years in a row. Dr. Oz is a Harvard-educated cardiac physician who, through his syndicated TV show, has promoted faith healing, “energy medicine,” and other quack theories that have no scientific basis. Oz has appeared on ABC News to give legitimacy to the claims of Brazilian faith healer “John of God,” who uses old carnival tricks to take money from the seriously ill. He’s hosted Ayurvedic guru Yogi Cameron on his show to promote nonsense “tongue examination” as a way of diagnosing health problems. This year, he really went off the deep end. In March 2011, Dr. Oz endorsed “psychic” huckster and past Pigasus winner John Edward, who pretends to talk to dead people. Oz even suggested that bereaved families should visit psychic mediums to receive (faked) messages from their dead relatives as a form of grief counseling.

Unfortunately, the JREF award presentation doesn’t include all of Dr. Oz’s offenses. This is not JREF’s fault, because I’m sure the people preparing the awards finished them up a while ago. It was only just yesterday that Dr. Oz, not content with faith healing and psychic mediums, decided that he would embrace The One Woo To Rule Them All. That’s right; I’m talking about homeopathy. It was featured prominently two segments in yesterday’s show, first Alternative Pain Treatments (part II is here). First, Dr. Oz asks, “Could the ultimate antidote for your pain be found among the ancient secrets and cutting edge innovations of alternative treatments?”

In a word, no. But that doesn’t stop Dr. Oz from bringing Russ Greenfield, who is described as a “world expert” in integrative medicine. For those of you not familiar with the term, that means he’s good at “integrating” quackery with effective medicine. Right after Dr. Greenfield is introduced, an audience member asks him about using homeopathic remedies for pains, to which Dr. Greenfield’s initial response describes homeopathy as “among the most controversial” of alternative medicine. He got that one wrong homeopathy is pure pseudoscience and based on its very principles violates multiple laws of physics and chemistry. In other words, for homeopathy to work, much of what we know about physics, chemistry, and biology would have to be not just wrong, but spectacularly wrong. Another way of putting it is that homeopathy is “controversial” in the same way that the “moon hoax,” Holocaust denial, “9/11 Truth,” creationism, and the claim that vaccines cause autism are “controversial.” That doesn’t stop Dr. Oz from promoting it, stating that his wife uses it. (What a surprise! His wife is a reiki master; so she’s already proven that she has no grasp of science-based medicine.) Particularly painful to watch is Dr. Oz’s demonstration of how homeopathy is supposed to work. Seriously. It starts around 2:52 in the video. Meanwhile, Dr. Greenfield touts “scientific studies” that show that homeopathy works, finishing by saying that what’s important about homeopathy is that it makes us “question science” and that it’s always important to do that.

Well, yes, but there’s a huge difference between “questioning” science and promoting a pseudoscientific viewpoint that is known to be not just wrong but–you guessed it!–spectacularly wrong. But even more amusing (or appalling, depending upon your point of view), Dr. Greenfield states that you shouldn’t touch the homeopathic remedy because touching it can “inactivate it.” Yes, that’s right. You’ve got it. Your fingers can make the magic go away. Actually, I don’t know what’s worse, Dr. Greenfield saying such things or Dr. Oz recommending homeopathic Arnica for “trauma,” such as bruises and sprains. I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. But that’s not all the woo that Dr. Oz crams into one show. Oh, no. Next up, he brings in the “biopuncture,” which he touts as a “healing cure-all.”

What is biopuncture?

Basically, it’s homeopathy combined with acupuncture. Yes, it’s true that they deny that that’s what it is in the published material that Dr. Oz included with it, but the video doesn’t lie (nor do several websites), and if it weren’t a combination of acupuncture with homeopathy, why did they name it “biopuncture”? In any case, it appears that basically homeopathic remedies are injected into acupuncture points. I tell ya, ya can’t make stuff like this up. At least I can’t. Unfortunately, someone can:

Biopuncture is a therapy using mostly plant-based ultra-low dilution product formulas which are injected into specific body regions to relieve pain and inflammation. The majority of injections are micro-injections with a very small needle just under the skin or into the muscle. One of the benefits of directly injecting the area of pain appears to be a “turbo effect,” or a much faster healing response.

In conventional medicine, the drug you take suppresses your symptoms immediately. That is why you need to take high doses of chemical substances in order to suppress pain or inflammation. But as soon as the medication stops working, you have to take another pill to “kill the pain” again.

However, in biopuncture, small doses of products are injected in order to stimulate or “wake up” the natural healing processes. The healing effect comes from “inside” your body – not from the products themselves. It’s the reaction of your immune system, which will produce the proper reactions to regain natural healing.

The two most commonly injected products are ultra-low doses (ULDs or “micro-doses”) of mainly medicinal plant and mineral-based products and/or glucose.

It’s quite interesting to see Dr. Oz describe the “difference” between acupuncture and biopuncture. Basically, he discusses meridians and buys into them wholesale. To him, the difference is that acupuncture tries to hit those merdians, those places where “energy flows” precisely, while biopuncture involves injecting homeopathic remedies or low dose botanicals into acupuncture points in order to get “double the effect.” I realize that today is April Fools’ Day and I would have never thought that I’d see Dr. Oz embrace homeopathy and a variant of homeopathy that combines it with acupuncture. At least, I wouldn’t have thought it possible before Dr. Oz invited faith healers and John Edward onto his show. Truly, that’s crossing the Woo-bicon.

During the first season his show was on the air, Dr. Oz flirted with quackery, but remained mostly science-based. No more, apparently. For whatever reason, be it the relentless maw of time that must be fed to produce a daily hour-long talk show, the need for higher ratings, no longer caring about science and science-based medicine, or some combination of these, Dr. Oz and his producers have decided to go completely woo. No more flirting with quackery for Dr. Oz! No, he’s decided to embrace it in a great big bear hug and give it a huge sloppy kiss on the lips.

Sadly, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Dr. Oz in the Pigasus Awards over the next few years. At the very least, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Oz goes for a three-peat next year.