I regard Oprah Winfrey’s conduct in the 2006 James Frey scandal signature significance regarding her priorities and character. When it was revealed that Frey’s “memoir,” “A Million Little Pieces,” which Oprah had promoted in her show’s book club, was a near-total fabrication, her immediate response consisted of, in essence, “Who cares, if people like it?” Then, when the public response to her response was overwhelmingly negative, Oprah turned on a dime and ambushed Frey on the air, condemning him as an unscrupulous fraud. That’s our Oprah.
Oprah has profited by promoting several fakes, frauds and dubious authorities, such as the syndicated Oprah spin-off “Dr. Phil,” featuring a non-doctor who masquerades as a psychologist despite losing his license to practice decades ago. The most successful of all Oprah’s protegés is “Dr. Oz,” or “America’s Doctor” Mehmet Oz, now a popular syndicated talk-show host who dispenses medical advice with the aura of a real degree and a convincing air of authority. When I say popular, I mean it. “The Dr. Oz Show” attracts 2.9 million viewers per day, and ranks in the top five talk shows in the U.S. “I haven’t seen a doctor in eight years,” the New Yorker quoted one fan telling Dr. Oz. “I’m scared. You’re the only one I trust.”
For some reason medical experts have waited over a decade to actually check out the snake oil Dr. Oz has been selling to credulous viewers softened up by Oprah’s House of Truthiness. They were finally roused from their torpor in recent months, after Dr. Oz appeared before Congress in June and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) knocked him around the chamber, saying that he gave people false hope and that his segments were a “recipe for disaster.” Then, in November, a study he promoted as proving the efficacy of coffee bean weight-loss pills was retracted as junk science.
The British Medical Journal this week published a study analyzing the recommendations handed out on “Dr. Oz” as well as on another popular daytime medical show, “The Doctors.” The study selected forty “Dr. Oz” episodes from last year, and examined 479 separate medical recommendations, comparing them to available medical research. The study found that just 46 % of his recommendations were validated by data, while research contradicted 15%. For 39% of Oz’s advice, there was insufficient research and data to substantiate or debunk his claims. (“The Doctors” fared a little better, but not much.)
“Consumers should be skeptical about any recommendations provided on television medical talk shows, as details are limited and only a third to one half of recommendations are based on believable or somewhat believable evidence,” the paper concluded. “… Decisions around healthcare issues are often challenging and require much more than non-specific recommendations based on little or no evidence.”
“Well, why should medical advice be any different that any other kind of “fact” injected into the public’s consciousness by the media and unscrupulous hucksters?” said the frustrated ethicist as he read yet another column by an otherwise admirable African-American journalist suggesting that Michael Brown was an innocent teen gunned down in cold blood by a racist cop?
“Here’s why,” replied his more practical side. “False political and social narratives just make the public less trusting, angry, misinformed, frightened and stupid. Bad medical advice can kill them.” A doctor whose advice is based on myth, guesses, rumors and a profit motive over half the time is as dangerous and useless as the old witchy woman who says you can treat that cancer of your’n with a little stump water, some barleycorn, and some wolf piss.
Source: Washington Post