On Monday of this week, Michael Specter published an article in The New Yorker entitled THE OPERATOR: Is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good? In the article, Specter expended considerable verbiage that, as I explained yesterday, was beautiful in how it let Oz reveal through his own words that (1) he is no longer a scientist and (2) how he views science-based medicine as apparently religion and just another way of knowing. Indeed, so off the wall were Oz’s utterances in this article that Jeff Bercovici boiled it down, summarizing it as Dr. Oz’s Five Wackiest Medical Beliefs. Of course, I’ve covered many of these before, which I view as Dr. Oz’s utter abdication of professional responsibility, including Oz’s promotion of the king of alternative medicine quackery, Joe Mercola; a credulous take on faith healing and psychic mediums; as well as all manner of other quackery, which he “integrates” with real medicine to the point that it is very difficult even for knowledgeable lay people—even some physicians—to tell where the science-based medicine ends and the quackery begins.
Perhaps the most amusing thing about the Specter article is its timing, which was utterly perfect. Why do I say that? Well, consider: Oz has credulously embraced nearly every quackery known to human beings, touting it on his show alongside real medicine as though the two were co-equal. Note how I say “almost.” As of Monday, it was no longer “almost.” For Monday was the day that Oz embraced homeopathy publicly and promoted it on his show in a segment called The Homeopathy Starter Kit. I kid you not. Every time I seem to think that Oz’s journey to the Dark Side is complete, I’ve been proven wrong as Oz delves deeper into quackery than I had thought possible. Now that he’s embraced The One Quackery To Rule Them All, is there anything left? I fear we’ll see.
But first, here are parts one, two, and three of his paean to homeopathy.
I suppose I shouldn’t be, but I was surprised to hear Oz proclaim at the very beginning of his segment that he and his family had been using homeopathy for three generations, as he blathers about how, if you’re interested in weaning yourself off of pharmaceutical medications and try a more “natural” approach. So, he tells us, he’s developed a homeopathy starter kit just for you! Indeed, Oz tells us, homeopathy “appeals to many because of its gentle nature.” No doubt, given that there’s no actual medicine in most of them, its having been diluted by numbers far greater than Avogadro’s number, meaning that there isn’t likely to be a single molecule left. Particularly amusing is how Oz contrasts homeopathy to “Western medicine,” given that homeopathy is about as “Western” as any medicine. Does he not remember that Samuel Hahnemann developed homeopathy in Germany over 200 years ago? In any case, Oz proceeds to parrot the “law of similars” (the pseudoscientific claim that “like cures like” is a general principle in medicine) and the “law of infinitesimals” (which claims that the more you dilute something, the stronger it gets), concluding:
Despite long-standing skepticism by the medical community because of lack of evidence more and more people, even some of your own doctors, are intrigued by the effectiveness claims of homeopathic remedies on their patients. Could homeopathy be the gentlest and best medicine for you and your family.
Not surprisingly, Oz introduces a naturopath named Lisa Samet, who according to him has been practicing homeopathy for 20 years, who tells Oz that her practice is made up mainly of people who are “fed up with conventional medicines,” such as antibiotics and the like, that “manage symptoms but don’t treat the real cause.” Yeah, right. Like homeopathy does! Think about it. The central premise of homeopathy is “like cures like.” Dr. Oz even admits that. The “like” in this principle refers to symptoms. That’s right. Homeopathy is designed to treat the symptoms, not the cause! Yet you will hear homeopaths and naturopaths pontificate endlessly about how “Western medicine” supposedly doesn’t treat the causes. This naturopath does that and more, claiming that homeopathy is “holistic,” treats the “whole person,” and that it treats the root causes of disease. It’s utter nonsense, of course, but it’s utter nonsense given the imprimatur of Dr. Oz himself. There’s even a video of Samet repeating the same quackery, going on about how homeopathy is natural, “treats the cause of disease and not the symptoms,” and talking about how succussion (shaking) “liberates the forces” in the remedy that heal. She even spews the “nanoparticle” pseudoscience that homeopathy quacks have been pushing lately, to the alternating fury and mockery of chemists everywhere.
So what’s in Oz’s homeopathic starter kit? First, he recommends homeopathic belladonna for fever. Why? Because belladonna, undiluted, will make you feel sick and feverish. Not only that, but she recommends a 200C dilution. Remember, each “C” dilution is a 1:100 dilution. Thus, a 200C dilution represents 200 1:100 dilutions or 1:102 x 10200 or 1:10400. Given that the number of atoms in the known universe is thought to be between 1078 and 1082, this is a truly ridiculous level of dilution.
So what’s next? Homeopathic phosphorus for coughs. Why? It’s not explained. Then there’s homeopathic Gelsemium for the flu. But not just any flu. Oh, no. Gelsemium is for the flu in which patients feel so weak that they can’t get out of bed, and who feel out of it. Of course, that’s pretty much anyone who has a significant case of the flu, which, let’s face it, knocks you on your posterior. Finally, there’s homeopathic Pulsatilla for sinus infections and Nux Vomica for nausea, indigestion, and bloating and there you have it: Dr. Oz’s Homeopathic Starter Kit. Of note, I’ve written about the utter ridiculousness of Nux Vomica before. There’s zero scientific plausibility, basis, or evidence that it (or any other homeopathic remedy) has any specific effect on any illness.
Oz finishes up with a segment in which he proclaims how more and more doctors are being educated in homeopathy and use homeopathic remedies in their practices. Irritatingly, Oz introduces the subject by dismissively brushing aside the skepticism of doctors who don’t accept homeopathy by claiming that it’s all because we don’t yet understand how it works. Unfortunately, that’s a load of fetid dingo’s kidneys. We fully understand how homeopathy “works.” It doesn’t. There is no plausible scientific mechanism for it to work, and, consistent with that, the better designed and larger clinical trials to test homeopathic remedies have failed to find any specific effects attributable to the remedies. Basically homeopathic remedies are placebos. No wonder to Oz it’s seemingly a big deal that for the first time ever these three homeopathic physicians are “stepping into the spotlight.” Personally, I’d be highly embarrassed if I were one of them, but apparently these docs aren’t. In fact, according to the breathless narration by Oz, these docs think homeopathy is so successful that they’re “integrating” them into their “Western medicine” practice. (Oh, that horrible, not-so-subtly racist characterization that implies that there’s something different about the “inscrutable” East whereas we “Western” types are scientific and unfeeling.”
The three doctors include Karlene ChinQuee, MD, whose practice is described thusly:
Dr. ChinQuee’s practice specializes in Functional Medicine, weight management, nutrition, hormonal therapy, environmental health, anti-aging/age-management, regenerative medicine, and beauty aesthetics. Dr. ChinQuee’s unique credentials and experience enable her to help both women and men address every aspect of good health in order to lead healthy, happier, and longer lives.
If you look at her website, you’ll see she’s completely into woo, including functional medicine (for which Mark Hyman is known), bioidentical hormones, and anti-aging medicine. In fact, if you look at the list of services offered, there appears to be no woo that Dr. ChinQuee doesn’t embrace. “Detoxification,” “energy therapy,” acupunture, “biopuncture,” functional medicine, nutritional supplements, it’s all there. Looking at that list, I’m shocked that she’s only now embracing homeopathy. She appears to be a natural for it, an ideal homeopath.
Next up is Albert Levy, MD. Prominently featured on his website are homeopathy consultations. Dr. Levy proclaims homeopathy to be better than anything he’s encountered in “conventional medicine,” an assertion that reveals him to have what can best be described as seriously questionable judgment. In this, he is not unlike Scott Stoll, MD, the third member of the less-than-dynamic trio trotted out by Dr. Oz to “prove” that homeopathy is being embraced by “Western” doctors. Each one of these disgraces to the MD degree then cheerily chirps about which homeopathic remedy is their favorite, like a model endorsing a soft drink and with about as much thought.
Clearly the winner of this race to the bottom, in terms of sheer pseudoscience, is Dr. ChinQuee. She endorses biopuncture. Longtime readers might remember that I’ve written about biopuncture before. In fact, it was Dr. Oz whose promotion of biopuncture first brought it to my attention. Basically, biopuncture is homeopathy combined with acupuncture. Basically homeopathic remedies are injected into acupuncture points. Truly, biopuncture is two woos that woo great together! We even get a demonstration, with Dr. ChinQuee chirping even more cheerily than before about how awesome biopuncture is, how it will reduce inflammation (how, she doesn’t say), and “improve mobility.
Of course, one thing stands out throughout this entire show, and that’s the utter lack of evidence for homeopathy. True, Oz obliquely acknowledges the physical impossibility of homeopathy based on our current understanding of the laws of physics. He doesn’t mention that, for homeopathy to “work,” several laws of physics and chemistry would have to be not just wrong but spectacularly wrong. Nor does he mention that clinical trials are most consistent with homeopathy having no specific effect, indeed no effect at all above that of placebo. Instead, we get Dr. ChinQuee’s demonstration, and, not surprisingly, the patient says that she feels better after receiving the injection of water. Actually, I wonder if it really was a proper homeopathic remedy (i.e., pure water), because injecting water into the tissues tends to hurt. One wonders if this particular homeopathic remedy was diluted in normal saline, one does.
Oz finishes with a “homeopathic remedy” for stress, called the Rescue Remedy. It’s apparently made up of five flowers. (Well, actually, it’s made of water; it is, after all, a homeopathic remedy.) It turns out that Rescue Remedy is actually a Bach Flower remedy, which is described on its website thusly:
Dr. Edward Bach discovered the Original Bach Flower Remedies which is a system of 38 Flower Remedies that corrects emotional imbalances where negative emotions are replaced with positive.
The Bach Flower Remedies work in conjunction with herbs, homeopathy and medications and are safe for everyone, including children, pregnant women, pets, the elderly and even plants.
The Bach Flower Remedies is a simple system of healing that is easy for anyone to use.
Evidence? Another anecdote, this time by a student who complained of stress but said she felt better after taking Rescue Remedy. This anecdote is even less convincing than the biopuncture anecdote.
After having subjected myself to this latest atrocity against science by Dr. Oz, I now think that he’s finally jumped the shark. Actually, he jumped the shark long ago, when he featured Dr. Mercola on his show, but maybe this will be will be a wake-up call in which Oz does something so utterly ridiculous, so devoid of anything resembling science, that perhaps people will start to realize that Dr. Oz is no longer a doctor who cares the least bit about science or even whether a treatment he features on his show works. After all, if he would promote magic water on his show without featuring even a shred of credible evidence that it does what he claims it does, Oz has forfeited any claim to be a credible scientist or science-based physician. In fact, so perfunctory is this show, so reliant on Oz’s charisma and appeals to authority coupled with the bandwagon fallacy in lieu of evidence, that I wonder if Oz is even trying anymore. It’s like he’s phoning it in.
How appropriate that Specter’s article was released the same day that Oz let his homeopathy freak flag fly.