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America’s quack counterattacks by calling his critics industry hacks

Last week, a group of ten doctors led by Dr. Henry Miller, most of whom were affiliated either 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 Dr. Mehmet Oz shouldn’t be faculty at Columbia University because of his “disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops” and “an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.” The letter produced a fair amount of media attention late last week; over the weekend my opinion of the letter, which was mildly approving, evolved into disapproval and dismay. The reasons were several and included a profound distaste for threatening letters sent to a person’s employers, admittedly based in part on my own experiences having been at the receiving end of such intimidation tactics, as well as a concern that the letter had been written with no clear purpose behind it other than as a publicity stunt to embarrass Dr. Oz and Columbia. When I learned that Dr. Oz was planning to answer the letter on his show this week, I predicted that this particularly bone-headed publicity stunt would backfire spectacularly.

Now that I’ve seen the show, having DVRed it for watching after getting home from work, I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. Actually, I don’t hate to say it, but in this case it’s profoundly depressing how badly Miller’s stunt backfired. I suppose it’s little consolation that I accurately predicted Dr. Oz’s line of attack, although I do take some satisfaction in noting that Dr. Oz has officially become Mike Adams, the looniest of quack loons and conspiracy theorists, whose massively unhinged attacks on behalf of Dr. Oz that I noted basically said the same things that Oz ended up saying. Truly, if I thought that maybe Dr. Oz might have had a shred of honor left before, I harbor no such illusion now. Oz is about as despicable as it gets.

Actually, yesterday morning, Oz published an article in TIME entitled Exclusive: Dr. Oz Says ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, that was a summary, an outline, if you will, of his planned line of attack, so much so that I thought maybe I wouldn’t have to watch Oz’s actual show when I got home. But, damned that sense of duty—the things I do for my readers—I did watch, and I was amazed at just how low Oz was willing to go.

First, let’s look at the TIME article. Not having science to back him up, Oz goes for the same gambits that quacks and antivaccinationists go for: Appeals to freedom, claims to be “fighting for you,” and ad hominem attacks on his enemies, up to—or should I say down to—the very same ad hominem attack used by Mike Adams in his series of screeds attacking the letter writers. In fact, the TIME article very much resembles Oz’s opening monologue on his “counterattack” show, but the show was a bit more dramatic, as you might expect. The show begins with a variation of the same teaser trailer Oz had released on Wednesday, in which typical announcer guy intones in his most dramatic voice:

You’ve seen the headlines. You’ve heard the controversy. Now, Dr. Oz fires back. He responds to his critics and sets the record straight on the GMO movement, alternative health practices, and his commitment to always fight for you.

[Note added 4/24/2015. You can now watch the segments for yourself: Dr. Oz Breaks His Silence; Dr. Oz Reveals the Truth About His Critics; and Dr. Joel Fuhrman Defends Dr. Oz Against the Controversial Headlines. There was another long segment recapping some of what Dr. Oz has said about GMOs, but that doesn’t appear to be online, perhaps because it consisted mainly of snippets from past Oz shows.]

Then, in his monologue immediately blames “ten mysterious doctors” with industry ties to for trying to shut him up because he criticized genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Then, with a heavy sigh implying a heavy heart delivered with the cheesy portentous manner of an old gunman in a B-grade western forced to strap on his six gun one more time to go into battle—no, Dr. Oz is not a very good actor—he says:

I’ve long believed that doctors should never fight their battles–or each other–in public. But now I believe I must.

Hoo boy. You could smell the cheese. You could also see the lie, as Oz made the claim that “many papers mistakenly claimed my own hospital’s doctors were out to get me.” Oh, really? If there were such stories claiming that it was Columbia doctors going after Oz, I sure didn’t see them. I wonder if Oz will put up some links to those stories. Somehow I doubt it.

Oz also invoked this gambit:

This can lead to confusion and irritation when analyzed by conventional physicians. For example, another daytime TV show and mine were recently noted in a BMJ article for only having proof for half of what we shared with the audience. A similar figure is often used to approximate the amount of randomized clinical trial data underlying conversations in physician’s offices across America. This reflects that natural gap between what is proven in clinical trials and the needs of our patients.

He’s referring to a study I and others blogged about. Oddly enough, I hadn’t been aware that the authors of that study had later said that their data didn’t support the contention that Dr. Oz or The Doctors were “quacks or charlatans or worse.” OF course, no one said that this study did; it simply showed how little of what Oz recommends is evidence-based. For one thing, as I noted, the reviewers looking at the claims were willing to consider case studies as the minimum form of evidence to support a recommendation. I reiterate: That’s a really low bar. By that standard, you could say that there is some evidence to support the idea that the MMR vaccine is associated with autism, given that Andrew Wakefield’s infamous 1998 study—now retracted—was a case series. Actually, since it was retracted, you couldn’t use Wakefield’s study, but there are plenty of other case reports and bad studies by antivaccine-sympathetic doctors and researchers out there that one could cite. In any case, that’s how bad Dr. Oz did, given how low a bar a case study is. When the authors raised the bar and used the slightly higher threshold of “Believable or somewhat believable evidence” then only 33% of recommendations on The Dr. Oz Show met that standard and 53% of the advice on The Doctors. Contrary to what Oz claims, medicine is far more evidence-based than that, as Steve Novella has shown time and time again.

Of course, the only thing that disappointed me about the study was that the authors didn’t look at what percentage of advice from Dr. Oz is based on pure fantasy (such as his episodes on homeopathy, using psychic mediums like John Edward and “Long Island MediumTheresa Caputo) as therapists, faith healing, and the like). That’s the core of the complaint I and many skeptics have against Dr. Oz., not that he does the occasional anti-GMO segment, although those are bad too.

In any case, the TIME article basically described much of the segment’s ad hominem attacks. Oz introduces them, but they were, as Dan Diamond pointed out, “outsourced” to The Dr. Oz Show correspondent Elisabeth Leamy, who enthusiastically performs the requisite hatchet job. Unfortunately, given who Dr. Miller and his fellow cosignatories are, it wasn’t difficult for her. I could have done the same thing as well as she did without even bothering to get my posterior off the couch. (Actually, I already did.) Some “reporter”! She reminds me of Sharyl Attkisson. In any case, here it is, in the TIME article:

With a few clicks and some simple searches, a remarkable web of intrigue emerged—one that the mainstream media has completely missed. The lead author, Henry I. Miller, appears to have a history as a pro-biotech scientist, and was mentioned in early tobacco-industry litigation as a potential ally to industry. He also furthered the battle in California to block GMO labeling—a cause that I have been vocal about supporting. Another of the letter signees, Gilbert Ross, was found guilty after trial of 13 counts of fraud related to Medicaid. He is now executive director of American Council on Science and Health, a group that has reportedly received donations from big tobacco and food and agribusiness companies, among others. Another four of the 10 authors are also linked to this organization.

The segments on Miller and Ross included unflattering photos with graphics worthy of the lowest form of political attack ads, complete with a graphic showing Miller being “put under the microscope” and concluding with jail doors closing in front of Ross. Then Oz interviews Lisa Graves of SourceWatch and executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, and Gary Ruskin US Right To Know. SourceWatch is a wiki run by the Center for Media and Democracy that bills itself as a “collaborative, specialized encyclopedia of the people, organizations, and issues shaping the public agenda.” Graves explicitly called Miller and the ACSH “shills for corporations,” in the most blatant use of the “shill” argument I can recall having seen in a long time. In the process, ACSH was referred by Ruskin as “rent-a-scientists,” who described this characterization as being “really well-established.” It might well be true that all of Oz’s arguments against his critics are misleading or downright wrong, but, contrary to what has been argued, it actually does matter who Oz’s critics are and that they have massive conflicts of interest. It is not “beside the point.” Maybe on some airy abstract plane it shouldn’t matter, but this is the real world, and to the average person it does matter, as much as we as skeptics might like to wish otherwise.

Meanwhile, Graves cited the words of the judge presiding over Ross’ Medicaid fraud trial, who referred to him as “a highly untrustworthy individual,” emphasizing that “those were his exact words,” before concluding, “I think this is definitely a smear campaign against Dr. Oz and I think it’s a campaign that’s driven by individuals who are connected to big industries.” I note that the term “big industry” was bandied about a lot during Oz’s segment. To be honest, besides its tendency to align with industry interests, I have always been bothered by the ACSH keeping Gilbert Ross in a leadership position, even back when his release from prison was not very far behind him. Yes, it’s true that a person’s past shouldn’t necessarily have any bearing on his scientific arguments, but Oz knows that that’s not how the average person thinks. That’s why his attack was so devastating, particularly the bit where a photo of Dr. Oz is projected next to photos of most of the ten signatories of the letter, and the question is asked, “Who should you believe?” Indeed, Even Ross now regrets having signed the letter because by signing it he foolishly gave Oz and his allies a weapon to attack the letter and the ACSH, and in particular to distract from the criticisms of Oz’s promotion of quackery and pseudoscience on his show.

There was one misfire that made me laugh out loud when I saw it. For whatever reason, the producers of The Dr. Oz Show decided it would be a good idea for Oz to interview Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I’ve mentioned him a few times before. For example, Fuhrman is a raw food faddist who takes a vitalistic view of cooking food in which cooking somehow destroys living antioxidants, phytochemicals, and a variety of other compounds, without which the body can’t be healthy and “must break down.” He describes processed food as “foods whose life has been taken out of them” and makes the claim that, without these micronutrients, cells accumulate “toxins” that need to be “detoxified,” while touting broccoli and various vegetables as having “incredible medicinal power.” Elsewhere, he’s been known to trot out the same old alt-med tropes against chemotherapy, particularly its “barbaric” nature. He’s also been known to make some rather overheated claims for the benefits of diet, in essence claiming that virtually any disease is preventable. No wonder Oz likes him.

Fuhrman serves as Oz’s surrogate and really lays it on thick. He describes the signatories of the letter as “not representative” of physicians and their letter as an “attack against all physicians” (nonsense!), pushing a “dangerous agenda,” and being “anti-American” and, of course, “anti-freedom.”

Of course. Because criticizing quackery is “anti-American” and “anti-freedom.”

Naturally, Oz can’t resist insinuating a conspiracy theory to explain why Miller and his cosignatories decided to send their letter now, referring to it as bullying, which is particularly amusing given the mismatch in media presence between Miller and Oz. In any case, Oz concludes that the reason Miller and colleagues must have decided to choose now to strike is because of a federal bill being considered, the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” which would prohibits any mandatory labeling of GMOs by states. Of course, the bill failed to pass last year; so it’s unclear to me why its reintroduction this year would provoke an attack by pro-GMO interests against Dr. Oz, but Oz and crew sure do blatantly insinuate dire conspiracies on the part of big industry to use more glyphosate, which GMOs allow it to do. It’s as though Oz has finally given in to the dark side so much that he’s channeling Alex Jones, Gary Null, and Mike Adams.

He concludes:

No matter our disagreements, one of the goals of this show is to have an honest discussion with diverse opinions. Freedom of speech, my friends, is the most fundamental right we have as Americans. These ten doctors are trying to silence them, and I’m not going to let that happen.

Yes, freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans, but freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism, nor does it obligate a production company to give Oz a platform or a TV station to broadcast his opinions.

Then, at the very end of the show, Oz shows the video of Elmo urging people to get vaccinated, concluding, “Elmo, the surgeon general, and I all agree: Get vaccinated.” Funny how Oz seems to have forgotten his having had the antivaccine loon Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on his show just last fall and his less-than-enthusiastic words on vaccines back in 2010 that led many to believe that he hadn’t vaccinated his children.

Of course, few people who aren’t skeptics who’ve been following Oz’s antics for a while are aware of these inconsistencies in his story; so he’ll almost certainly get away with it. In fact, it’s magnificent propaganda that utterly crushes Miller and his letter, just as I predicted that it would. Oz cynically completely reframes the criticisms directed at him from his support of pure quackery by featuring homeopathy, Mike Adams, faith healing, and all manner of other quackery on his show as potentially valid health care options to his being attacked by industry interests seeking to protect their GMO profits. Oz makes a big deal out of the fact that he doesn’t recommend these options as replacements for conventional care. Instead, he advocates “integrating” quackery with conventional medicine, which is actually part of his day job at Columbia as director of its integrative medicine program.

In fact, that’s exactly what I said when I predicted disaster for Miller and his band, and that’s what I say now. Michael Spector gets it, too. The problem is that what Oz promotes on his TV show is not that different from what he probably promotes as the director of Columbia’s integrative medicine program, which is not that different from what is happening in the rest of quackademia, as increasingly quackery is “integrated” with academic medicine to become quackademic medicine. Oz is a symptom, but a big one. There are many other examples, from medical schools as diverse as the Cleveland Clinic and its promotion of reiki, traditional Chinese medicine, and “functional medicine,” George Washington University, the University of Michigan (my alma mater), Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the University of Maryland.

If you don’t believe me, just check out this op-ed published in USA TODAY yesterday by several Columbia faculty, entitled What do we do about Dr. Oz? In the letter, Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, and his co-authors, practically bend over backwards not to be too critical of Oz, praising him for “bringing alternative therapies which are generally under-researched and under-regulated into the public forum,” which nearly made me spit out my iced tea on my computer when I read that phrase, even as the authors lament how Oz’s brand of medicine “unsubstantiated medicine sullies the reputation of Columbia University and undermines the trust that is essential to physician-patient relationships.” The best they can come up with is a proposal for increased governmental scrutiny of claims made on television and other media or, barring that, “Dr. Oz might begin each program with a simple disclaimer: ‘The opinions expressed on this program may not be evidence-based or part of accepted medical practice and have no endorsement from Columbia University.'”

What else can we expect when medical academia becomes medical quackademia? For example, I note that the Columbia University Medical Center’s Integrative Therapies Program for Children with Cancer offers herbal & nutrition counseling and guidance, aromatherapy (quackery), acupuncture & acupressure (quackery), massage therapy & reflexology (super duper quackery), reiki (rivaling homeopathy for the title of The One Quackery To Rule Them All), meditation, exercise, yoga & movement therapy, and a chef program. Yes, Dr. Oz has become a TV snake oil salesman, but selling snake oil is what quackademia increasingly does. Other than the psychics, he’s not doing anything worse than what happens at his own university. That’s the problem that needs to be attacked. Dr. Oz is just the most noticeable symptom.

In the end, all that Henry Miller managed to accomplish is to provide Dr. Oz an excuse to attack and crush his critics. Going forward, I fully expect that he will dismiss legitimate criticism of his promotion of quackery as being somehow affiliated with the ACSH and “big industry” protecting GMOs.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

152 replies on “America’s quack counterattacks by calling his critics industry hacks”

Oz was on NBC Nightly News yesterday. He claimed his show is not a medical show, it’s a “living the good life” show. He noted (I kid you not) that in his logo, “OZ” is what’s prominent, the words “THE DR.” appear in much smaller type so as to de-emphasize that he’s a doctor. (“SHOW” is also in small type, so as to de-emphasize that it’s a show ???).

Also, there were a handful of Columbia MDs and PhDs on in the NBC piece to criticize doctor Oz — they didn’t want him fired, they wanted a disclaimer on his show to appear onscreen to the effect that his nonsense does not reflect the thinking of Columbia University. Even though, as you note, it does.

Okay, so he’s got the reputation of being a great thoracic surgeon. So ? I’m a good computer programmer, that doesn’t qualify me in every aspect of technology. Oz needs to stop calling it The Dr Oz show, and call it the Mehmet Oz fun time Happy Hour, or something. I’ve got a nice clown wig here if he wants to borrow it, but I’m out of red bulb noses.

About 10 or 12 years ago, my wife insisted upon visiting a nutritionist because our daughter was a little on the heavy side. Who did she drag us to? Dr. Joel Furhman! At the time, I had not heard of him, and I had no idea what we were in for.

It took me about two minutes to figure out that he is a quack, and that was probably too long. He charged us $300 for that session, and our insurance, quite correctly, denied the claim. He has not gotten one cent ou our money since.

M. Oz (I don’t think the title of Dr. should be used for him unless you are in his medical office) seems to have fallen down to the level of the Foodbabe. Everyone out to get them is a paid industry shill.

I am not as dismayed as Orac about the results of this letter. Many science writers in a variety of media have written articles pretty critical of M. Oz as a result of this letter. I would guess that all these articles have reached a greater audience than has his one show.

Summary: It’s really, really unfortunate that, in this case, the people out to get Dr. Oz really are paid industry shills.

DLC @2 — I propose “J-Pop America FunTime Now!”. Because, Vanessa Bayer.

Also, there were a handful of Columbia MDs and PhDs on in the NBC piece to criticize doctor Oz — they didn’t want him fired, they wanted a disclaimer on his show to appear onscreen to the effect that his nonsense does not reflect the thinking of Columbia University. Even though, as you note, it does.

I assume they were the same ones who wrote that wishy-washy USA TODAY article.

I assume they were the same ones who wrote that wishy-washy USA TODAY article.

You are correct.

Once he started appearing on television, Dr. Oz became an entertainer. Sure, he may have been a promising physician at one time, but once he had his own series, he was subject to ratings and popularity polls, and advertising dollars. Even if he started out with the best of intentions, the realities of being a media personality were bound to become his prime focus. He will embrace, endorse, support and defend anything that will keep the Great and Powerful Oz front and foremost regardless of science.

Michael Specter, a New Yorker writer, wrote a blog post about the Columbia letter yesterday morning, before Oz’s rebuttal program. Specter is a good science writer. He wrote an entire New Yorker profile on Oz a couple of years ago. His post yesterday was balanced, saying in essence that Oz needs to decide: is he an entertainer or a scientist?
(Sorry, I don’t know how to embed links into text.)

IMO, Specter’s blog post went in a wrong direction toward the end, prompting me to write the following letter to him.

In your most recent blog post on Dr. Oz, you write, “Oz believes that Western medicine is reductive and that it too often focusses on illness instead of health, with ruinous results. That is hard to dispute.”

This belief has almost become a truism, and in my opinion, and that of many other observers, it is a major factor that accounts for the rise of alternative health-care practitioners and also of physicians who go between alternative and mainstream practices, such as Oz. It is the sort of belief that has helped give rise to the anti-vaccination movement. (Anecdote alert: I also believed for several years that so-called Western medicine was “reductive,” and it made me susceptible to the pseudoscientific claims of such practitioners. I have since reversed my position, or at least tempered it.)

I ask you: Is the statement really true? How did such a belief gain traction? What “ruinous results” actually occur? And when they do, what are the successes and failures of the scientific process to identify and correct them? In fact, what is “Western medicine” vs. non-Western medicine? I invite you to subject these questions to your considerable critical-thinking and investigative skills and write an article about your findings.

I have no argument with the two sentences that follow [in your blog post]: “These days doctors spend less and less time with their patients…. (And many studies have shown that people who spend more time with their doctors and nurses have better outcomes.)” I suspect that most doctors would say the same. In fact, this phenomenon can in part answer one of the questions I posed: How did the belief that Western medicine is reductive gain traction? But the first, blanket assertion (that Western medicine “too often focuses on illness instead of health, with ruinous results”) isn’t completely proved by the second, more specific one (that doctors don’t spend enough time with their patients).

I really would love to see an article on this phenomenon in a major publication by a good science writer like Specter.

Unable to edit my comment. My letter to Specter started with “In your most recent blog post on Dr. Oz”

and ended with “(that doctors don’t spend enough time with their patients.)”

Sorry for lack of clarity in original comment.

In fact, what is “Western medicine” vs. non-Western medicine?

I’ve said many times before that I view the term “Western medicine” as a profoundly racist term in that it perpetuates a stereotype of medicine that doesn’t come from the “West” as being unscientific compared to the medicine of the “West,” even though science is science, no matter where it came from.

As a fellow speaker, I’ll be seeing Specter at the CFI Reason for Change conference in June. I might have to ask him about that.

IMHO the thing to do is stoke up the conflict and let them finish each other off.

ASCH really are industry shills, with unsavory financial ties and a leader who is a convicted felon (and from the descriptions, probably a diagnosable sociopath).

Oz really has descended to the level of Food Babe and is catching up to Mike Adams by the minute.

Great!, let them tear each other to shreds! Next move: encourage ASCH to defend their “honor” and hit back at Oz. That in turn will provoke Oz to new depths of madness, and around and around they go, wrestling in the mud.

This works the same way as negative political campaigns, that are well known to make the public sick and tired of both candidates.

The goal should be one more felon looking for a new job, one more media star looking at declining ratings, and the public looking for more trustworthy sources of health info.

[medicine as practiced in the United States] too often focuses on illness instead of health

I know this is an anecdote and no substitute for actual data: in my experience, the vast majority of my doctor and dentist visits have been when I was well, not when I was sick. I have typically received advice on how to maintain health (e.g. brush often, floss, lose some weight, eat more vegetables and less fat) as opposed to treating some illness (though I really should get my Lipitor prescription refilled).

For general practitioners, it really makes sense economically to focus on people who aren’t sick.


I agree the vast majority of my doctor’s, dental, eye, etc visits have been preventative or health maintenance type of visits with a keep doing that or start doing this health advice rather than something immediate that needed attending to.

However I do think a lot of people use they system only for the acute visits (either at a ER or sometimes having a main doc). I know the annual check up idea had started up when I was younger, but the having a regular primary care doc who you see often enough to have a chance to talk to you about general health issues has not always been the case.

Compared to seeing your chiropractor weekly for an injury or every month or so to just keep things in line the once a year for a quick once over and a second visit when you have need to be seen issue may feel like they aren’t spending all that much time on your overall health and well being. So I kinda get where that attitude comes from, but I agree it doesn’t really match the reality I’ve experienced.

And yes, while you are there for a broken something or a can’t breath issue or any of the things people generally cannot ignore so will go to a doctor even if they “never” go, there may not be as much of that taking a full medical history, going over all the general systems and making sure any preventative care or screening tests are up to date as they focus on the place the blood is spurting out, what is making you screech in pain like a banshee in heat or the organ that needs 100% of the attention at the moment.

Apparently the most recent general whole person preventative medicine initiative at my usual clinic is screening people for falls for no it can happen to anyone reason. This winter’s slip on the ice and spectacular no sled luge attempt down my front steps didn’t count.

GMO movement

There’s a GMO movement? For real? Was there a hammer movement when hammers were invented?

Focusing on illness rather than health may vary quite a bit from situation to situation. If I break my arm or suspect a serious infection, I am not interested in talking about my weight or food choices when talking with the doctor.

However, as a human with a chronic disease under reasonable control, I see a doc 2-3 times a year and the conversation covers mostly how to maintain or get better control, in other words ‘health’.

Oz is pushing unsubstantiated woo a lot of the time, which is neither illness or health but profit.

It disgusts me when academic clinical pediatricians (like Rosenbaum) apparently carve out large portions of their functional cortex to politically kiss Oz’s ass.

#13: “Great!, let them tear each other to shreds! Next move: encourage ASCH to defend their “honor” and hit back at Oz. That in turn will provoke Oz to new depths of madness, and around and around they go, wrestling in the mud.”

It is a mistake to make merry while your enemies fight each other. The winner will be stronger and you will be in greater peril. (This is an ancient truism.) I think that is one of Orac’s key points here, with Oz emerging from this as more dangerous than before.

There’s a GMO movement?

I saw a melon roll off the pile at the grocery store once – that was enough movement for me. I didn’t ask it if it was genetically modified.

If I ever see an ear of corn walk down aisle 6 towards the breakfast cereals I’ll know the movement has gone too far.

And Mikey hitches his wagon to a star, applauding Oz- and Fuhrman as well whilst decrying ( in bold) the
“utter abandonment of real journalism”
I swear I didn’t make that up.

Kelley B @10
” I also believed for several years that so-called Western medicine was reductive”
This denigration of reductionism goes back a long way – I remember it being advanced by many years ago by people who thought they were being smart. But what did they have to offer instead: snake oil and hand waving. Virtually all we have we owe to so-called reductionism. All the progress that’s been made is by looking at parts in isolation, and deducing cause-and-effect. It’s due to that that most of us can look forward to reaching our eighties nowadays.
And yes, when it comes to the human body, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but by their fruits shall ye know them: what has holism (whatever it is) got to show for itself? As you imply these truisms sound impressive, but they don’t get us anywhere.

I am not a fan of the Dr.Oz show. However, all of your arguments here sound like whinny little children or like religous fundamentalists defending their belief system. Our world today relies on scientic methods of research and substantiation and so we must trust in the scientific process even at the risk of our personal beliefs being challenged or overturned. But one sees It is all over this blog: outrage at the challenge that traditional medicine is beyond reproach. Call it evidence based medicine at your own peril. The number of deaths or serious side effects from taking sugar pills is near zero. The same cannot be said for prescription medicine. Or hospital stays. The third or fourth leading cause of deaths in the u.s. Are from medical mistakes; in hospitals; with approved medicines. How many people lose their lives to homeopathy or psychic readings? Dr. Oz would seem to be guilty of promoting ‘medical’ products without verifiable evidence to support his claims but, that is not the issue. The issue is, is he doing more harm than good? Seems to me he has a lot of people thinking about taking better care of themselves; save you and your doctors time by maintaining a health lifestyle. He doesn’t like GMO’s? So. Neither does the U.N. In short your argument here seems to be he doesn’t think like you so he should go. He a medical degree from a top university, is a successful surgeon, has a TV show that includes ‘alternative’ therapies and you all seem to be of the mind that that last item invalidates the first two. Put down your statins and go meditate.

all of your arguments here sound like whinny little children

Something something Catherine the Great something.

lvr really needs to get a new schtick. The tone trolling and ranting about how dangerous medicine supposedly is are old hat for trolls around here.

More Info on one of the signers – 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 $$.”
“The scheme was brazenly larcenous: The clinics, which were later described as “very dirty and unsanitary,” raked in indigent patients—most of them homeless, alcoholic, or drug-addicted men—by offering them prescriptions for expensive drugs that they could resell on the street for cash. Word spread fast, and in streamed patients who, in exchange for the valuable scrip, would provide their Medicaid recipient numbers, give blood samples, and undergo medically unnecessary examinations, procedures, and tests. All of this brought Ross and the other doctors in the scheme money from the state’s Medicaid system, a percentage of which was kicked back to Khan.”

Ivr, your post shows a seriously warped sense of logic. The words ‘bat-sh!t insane’ come to mind when reading it.

To start with, perhaps you would like to detail how many heart attack victims have been saved with homeopathy or psychic readings?

What is that you say? Zero.

Well that tells us something. Homeopathy and psychic reading are not used as first line medical treatments, because they don’t actually work as medicine. If these were to be used instead of normal medicine, the number of deaths due to medical intervention would be the number 1 killer in the land, by ever so much.

Normal medicine operates on evidence. When the evidnce goes against a practice, such as homeopathy or psychic reading, that practise is given the boot (except by so-called alternative medicine practitioners).

Sadly some sick people die from the side effects of medicines, because medicines are designed to have physiological activity. And sometimes that activity is manifest as a side effect – given not all people are the same.

As for Dr Oz, yes indeed he has a medical degree and was a succesful surgeon. However, neither of those things make his claims about alternative medicine real. It is only proper evidence that would do that.

ken, we have already got the picture about Ross. Days ago in fact when the letter was first posted.

Ross’ s past does not make his claims about Oz wrong, because that after all is based on evidence. They do make it unfortunate that he signed the letter, given he has provided such an opportunity for the likes of you to ignore the evidence.

#13 Grey S
Why You Can’t Trust the American Council on Science and Health

“Columbia medical faculty: What do we do about Dr. Oz?”
#108 The article concludes-
We support Columbia’s commitment to faculty freedom of expression in public discussion with the caveat that physicians offering medical advice carry a great responsibility for honesty and accuracy to the public and their peers……..Barring such scrutiny, Dr. Oz might begin each program with a simple disclaimer: “The opinions expressed on this program may not be evidence-based or part of accepted medical practice and have no endorsement fromColumbia University.”

[email protected]
Your posts are so bizarre. Grey Squirrel said:

ASCH really are industry shills, with unsavory financial ties and a leader who is a convicted felon (and from the descriptions, probably a diagnosable sociopath).

Why do you feel the need to link to something that says exactly what he already. As a matter of fact, Orac already addressed it in his article. And as ChrisP mentioned Dr. Ross’ conviction and general unsavory-ness have already been discussed here. Why do you link and quote articles about topics already addressed without actually adding anything to the conversation?

Not really related to this article, but I’m tickled to see the meme I created a mere 2 days ago on reddit show up here. 🙂

#34 capkrunch -explaining the details of the felony obviously.
I guess with your limited moral integrity you can’t see the difference between the two- Ross and Oz.
Columbia has made their decision and recommended that Oz open his show with a disclaimer. This is realistic given he is an MD. He should open his show this way.
A lot of the posters here are so anal retentive they can’t let issues go. This is one of them. His show goes on and he will remain at Columbia.
Your comment is more bizarre. It’s called “fact checking” exactly what the crime was. Calling an MD a felon is a serious charge but I guess you can’t be bothered with fact checking.

Oracular indeed.

What do you think, Orac, or anyone else, why the letter was written? Is it just that sweeping back the endless streams of bullshit got the 10 overwrought to the point of ill-considered public attack?

Why was that letter not so well-planned and well-coordinated as even a few hours of consultation with, for example, Orac would have facilitated?

I have no good ideas on this. Just wondering?

I do see the difference between Oz and Ross. One is a shady character who accepts science. One is a shady character who rejects science.

But the person does not matter. What matters is the science. I am actually grateful that Ross signed the letter. In this way we can see who think ad hominem attacks are more important than the underlying science.

Sadly some sick people die from the side effects of medicines, because medicines are designed to have physiological activity. And sometimes that activity is manifest as a side effect – given not all people are the same.

And this is another reason cannabis prohibition is so egregious. The patented ‘medicines’ modeled upon the action of various cannabinoids are invariably flawed just a bit.

If one has a key made at Malwart, just as often than not, that key breaks off in your ignition switch doing strange things depending on the state of the cylinder before fail — Side effects. Hmm. And industry uses the same soft language for ‘airbags’ instead of properly calling them ‘car bombs’.

Never forget that the side impact car bomb deployed, knocking the driver into the security guard with such force that it imploded his skull, and then the car hit the 13’th pillar.

OK, Oz has dug in, and staked his defense on the “big industry” attack.

But he’s got a problem. What does he do when the next letter comes from a group of doctors that don’t have the industry ties? If a few doctors from the Mayo clinic send in a letter and say, “We don’t have ties to industry, but we read the letter the others sent and we concur with their complaints. You are a problem.”

Or what if it is from a group practice in Taos, NM?

You can think that this letter was a bad move, but I can see the upside: he didn’t deny the charges. So what does he do when he doesn’t have an ad hominem available?

The move forward is clear – let the criticisms come from all sides. Blogging doctors that criticize him? Suddenly come to the forefront. You just need the journalist to write the story, “Oz accuses his critics of being industry shills. But they aren’t all…”

Dr. Oz Breaks His Silence

Excuse my skepticism about “Dr Oz” and “silence”.

@Marry Me, Mindy – I think the first letter has poisoned the well. Any future such letter will be seen as derivative and likely will be ignored by the producers, the network, the university, and the press.

It was picked up in national news the first time due to novelty; I doubt any future letter would get as much attention.

ken, we have already got the picture about Ross.

Ken has apparently deduced that she has a safer bet in boneheaded link spamming than in coming up with boneheaded originals.

[email protected]

I guess with your limited moral integrity you can’t see the difference between the two- Ross and Oz.

No one is arguing that Ross is an upstanding person. I was merely wondering aloud about your inability to contribute beyond pasting links. Now I’m also wondering about your reading comprehension.

#44 capn I do not indulge in excess verbiage or proselytize my opinions. I state facts. I am fair enough in considering differing “opinions” and welcome fact based arguments with links.

[email protected]

I state facts.

Nope. You post links. Besides your reply to me the only words of your own in this thread are from #33: “#108 The article concludes-“. Using links to support a point is different from quoting an article and adding nothing original to it. Not even new links. Note that Orac’s article contains the link to MotherJones RE: Ross.

Ken’s purpose here at this point, as far as I can tell, is twofold: she wants some sort of validation that she’s really SMURT, and she wants to do some pearl clutching if anybody dares to respond to her in a way that she feels isn’t “civilized” enough. I’ll point out that she doesn’t seem to mind dishing out insults, she just doesn’t like it when they’re directed at her.

“exercise, yoga & movement therapy, and a chef program. Yes, Dr. Oz has become a TV snake oil salesman, but selling snake oil is what quackademia increasingly does.”

Why would you include exercise in a list of quack treatments for cancer? There is a strong and growing evidence-base for the value of therapeutic exercise in the management of cancer. Great article otherwise.

Simon [email protected]
Orac marked the quackery with “(quackery)”. Those ones youisted were unmarked because they, like you said, are science based modalities that have been coopted by alt med types.

Peter D @23:
Thanks for the additional observations on the term “reductive.”

@49 Simon, He didn’t say exercise was quackery. He listed all the modalities used there and followed several of the modalities with (quackery). There were several modalities that he did not put (quackery) behind because those aren’t considered quackery.

I was impressed at how prescient your post was.

I think it’s also notable that the Environmental Working Group gets a lot of its funding from anti-GMO Organic food companies- another fact that Oz failed to mention.

I have a hard time seeing, “Hey Columbia, we have a hard time taking you seriously when you keep a quack on staff” as being out of line.

I think the difference is that unlike with Orac, the accusations against Oz are not false.


Never forget that the side impact car bomb deployed, knocking the driver into the security guard with such force that it imploded his skull, and then the car hit the 13’th pillar.

What on Earth are you jabbering about?

It’s Tim, LW. That was fairly coherent for him, if by coherent you mean “trying to convince us that airbags are ‘car bombs.’ and that they don’t save lives overall because a few people are killed by them in rare instances.”

[email protected]
Tim’s absurd premise was only a couple logical leaps from being tangentially related to the topic at hand AND ken responded to me with her own words instead of a link and a quote. Everyone’s giving 110% today.

Orac, your reply is hilarious, dangerous and off the mark. You should talk with ChrisP you both have equally bad aim.
ChrisP, you are comparing apples and oranges and I think you may be slightly unhinged. Do you really think people experiencing heart attacks are going to go look up an episode of Dr. Oz to see what they should do? No one anywhere near this blog or on the Oz show (as I understand it, I’ve never seen it) has ever advocated against calling a qualified Dr. Or EMT in a time of emergency. Also, I have not said all medicine is bad as you seem to indicate. Just that everyone here needs to stop freaking out everytime a medical professional or respected medical establishment suggest maybe, just maybe, trying to change your diet get more sleep, or other therapies as a way to deal with medical issues. Public discussion of medical practices and procedures is a good thing and not a scary thing. And Orac,
Criticism of business as usual medical practice is valid as ChrisP says so well, different people are different and sometimes what is right for one is not right for another. For what it is worth it looks like Ken (33) the only one here that got it right. Appologies Ken if you get pegged in my dreaded camp.

No one anywhere near this blog or on the Oz show (as I understand it, I’ve never seen it)

Your concern is thus all the more poignant.

Put down your statins and go meditate.


You’ve never seen the Oz show and you think it’s all about diet tips and sleep? Why not chill out and admit that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about?

[email protected]

Call it evidence based medicine at your own peril.

Speaking of evidence you need to provide some. I have some that’s rather contrary to your statements.

The third or fourth leading cause of deaths in the u.s. Are from medical mistakes; in hospitals; with approved medicines.

According to the most recent public CDC data (pdf), 2,768 people died of complications of medical or surgical care in 2013. I’m not going to sort the data to figure out exactly which place it is but suffice to say it is significantly lower than third or fourth (there were 2,596,993 deaths from all causes that year).

He doesn’t like GMO’s? So. Neither does the U.N.

From the WHO:

GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.


He a medical degree from a top university, is a successful surgeon, has a TV show that includes ‘alternative’ therapies and you all seem to be of the mind that that last item invalidates the first two.

Well the first two items certainly don’t invalidate the third. Quackery is quackery regardless of who is promoting it.

Do you really think people experiencing heart attacks are going to go look up an episode of Dr. Oz to see what they should do?

Homeopathic asthma inhalers and vaccines beg to differ. There is potential for real harm if these are used instead of real treatment.

Asthma Therapy provides temporary relief for Asthma / COPD symptoms, such as: difficulty breathing, spasmodic coughing, shortness of breath, inflammation in the airways, wheezing, and sensation of chest tightness and congestion

Seems a little dangerous, no?

…trying to change your diet get more sleep, or other therapies as a way to deal with medical issues.

No one here has any issue with these nor is there anything alternative about them. What we do take issue with is his promotion of quackery.

P.S. claiming that ken’s link spam is the only comment that gets it does little to help your case

The third or fourth leading cause of deaths in the u.s. Are from medical mistakes; in hospitals; with approved medicines.

According to the most recent public CDC data (pdf)….

You’re failing to use the decoder ring.

and then the car hit the 13’th pillar.

Princess Diana Truther conspiracy theories are one of the many domains of human thought for which I can summon no interest at all.

@ TBruce

You’ve never seen the Oz show and you think it’s all about diet tips and sleep?

Even if it was so, the completely [email protected] approach Dr Oz’ team took with the “miracle” green coffee bean extract diet pills would qualify Dr Oz as an incompetent money-grubber.
I mean, asking a supplement vendor if he is an expert on the stuff, invite him to the show in that amounts to a fantastic opportunity for free advertisement for his products, and at no point realizing the guy started packaging his own green bean products AFTER he got the invitation to the show…

“Today, we are receiving an expert in diet pills with a full 5 minutes of experience in the field”

That being said, I would recommend to the curious reader to hop on Jen Gunter’s blog for a little list of the dubious modalities that Dr Oz has supported in his show, at one point or another.

Interesting interview on CBC radio. Dr. Belchetz is not a great fan of Dr. Oz.

Dr. Belchetz seems to have missed the criminal conviction of one of the doctors signing the letter but … He does seem to handle the conflict-of-interest matter not too badly.

He makes in interesting point that Dr. Oz should not lose his position but that the university perhaps should not have him in an executive position.

He has some interesting personal experiences about effective censoring by advertisers and how they may have influenced Dr. Oz.

With Ana Maria Trimonte’s measles interview and now this, it also seems like CBC Radio is not a fan of wow.

In the end, all that Henry Miller managed to accomplish is to provide Dr. Oz an excuse to attack and crush his critics.

No. Miller got want he wanted. He got lots of pub for Hoover and ASCH. It doesn’t matter if this turns out to be ‘bad’ pub to the eyes of the general public. That just rallies the ‘base’ even more, and makes fund-raising easier. This is about pulling in big $$ from a few whales. Miller went from being a nobody to being ‘the guy Oz attacks,’ That’s good for Oz because Miller’s so attackable. But it’s better for Miller because it elevates his political stature immensely to be attacked by someone as famous and popular as Oz. As kreb (IIRC) pointed out in a previous thread, Miller has grabbed the ‘anti-Oz’ position away from more credible and legitimate critics – he kind of ‘owns it’ now, making it difficult for others to chime in. So the letter signatories are the ones who’ll get interviewed now. (THERE’s your ‘false balance’, btw…) And they’ll be collecting the clippings to forward as part of funding appeals, including ALL the attacks and critiques from all sides: ‘see how embattled we are? how much we need your help for our good work?’ – that ‘work’ being using science selectively for shilling. They’ll also benefit from support from folks who should know better but are so cheezed at Oz’s shenanigans they’ll fall into the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ trap as long as some of Oz’s quacking is called-out in the name of science, no matter how propagandistic the frame.

Most of the science press got hornswaggled. Orac’s commendably quick re-think seems to been an exception, sadly, but probably helped greatly in bringing other sources to look into the letter with a properly skeptical eye eventually.

Oz wins. Miller wins. Sbm loses.

Going off-topic: The recent flurry of “Supplements Increase Cancer Risk, New Study” news items collapsed under scrutiny:

In a follow-up post, McBurney wrote that there was, in fact, no presentation of new study data by Byers at the AACR meeting, and that “The entire news cycle linking multivitamin/mineral supplements with cancer risk seems to have been stimulated by the university press release alluding to a commentary published in 2012.”

I confirmed McBurney’s account with Garth Sundem in the University of Colorado media relations department this morning. He told me that there is no new meta-analysis, and that the “study” referred to in these news accounts is indeed the 2012 paper cited by McBurney (apparently a narrative review of the evidence and not study per se) from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Were random Respectful Insolence commenters making the same critique, several days earlier? Apparently they were!

capnkrunch, so you want facts here goes.,
“… Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist for the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists “…Moreover, he said conventional crossbreeding or cross-pollinating of different varieties for desirable traits, along with improved farming, are getting better results boosting yields at a lower cost.” There’s a lot more like that; its not that GMO’s aren’t safe its that they are being sold fraudulently by a large company that knows you will become completely dependent on their seed stocks. still in doubt? go here: – read into the article for the link to report.
Then this, Seems safe to me! Ha!
Homeopathy may be bunk, but one can still be highly skeptical of the others effectiveness and dangers. Don’t rule something out just because it’s not synthesized.
How about this: Instead of wasting your time whining about a Dr. on tv, why don’t you clean your own house first? This debate can go on and on and prove nothing; In the end teaching people how to think critically and evaluate all options is the way to go.


I had 2 uncles who died in childhood of asthma in the 1940s. If they had modern medicines like Symbicort available, I would have gotten to know them as I grew up. Oh, but maybe Symbicort would have killed them! What a dilemma.
But at least they would have had a chance.

Okay, we’ll just wait till everything in science-based medicine is 100% PERFECT before we start criticizing conscience (or nonsense) based medicine? Sorry, that’s not going to happen.

IVR. . .

Your sources for that third leading cause of death info are really just one source. The extrapolations of a toxicologist who works at NASA (and whose son, he maintains, died from negligent hospital care) — and a senator’s website, which cites the NASA guy’s extrapolations (which appeared in The Journal of Patient Safety).,_Evidence_based_Estimate_of_Patient_Harms.2.aspx

The ranking is obviously at odds with the CDC’s data on leading causes of death in the US.

Some critical thinking might include considering more than the estimate of one man when tossing out “facts”.

@IVR #69

Sad how the Union of Concerned Scientists has been coopted by the woowoos. You can’t hardly trust them any more than a gang of Monsanto Shill Scientists.

IVR: “This debate can go on and on and prove nothing; In the end teaching people how to think critically and evaluate all options is the way to go.”

Sure, I’ll bite. Edumacate me on thinking criticlly by giving mr viable options for the following issues faced by our family:

1- A two day old newborn who has a “shiver” in the morning. Then another longer one later, and by evening is having multiple seizures that become longer, stronger and quicker.

2- Three small children with strep infections.

3- Obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

4- Colles fracture

Do tell us how all of those can be resolved without anticonvulsants, antibiotics, beta-blockers, surgery… and anesthesia for the surgery.

Typing with one hand because my Colles fracture involved both arm bones into the wrist… surgery used small titanium plates to realign them to the wrist, and while it was weird to have my forearm turn into a paralyzed pendulum pivoting at my elbow for a day, I don’t think it could have been done if I was not immobilized. Do you think they should have just strapped me down and gave me something to bite on?

You are smarter than us so I know you’ll give good viable alternatives to fix my fall injury without a risk of arthritis, and a way to prevent the extra heart muscle gowth from blocking the kid’s aortic valve without hooking him to a heart-lung machine so they can remove the blood before cutting away the extra muscle. You can do that. Right?

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