It's Time for Dr. Oz to Hit the Yellow Brick Road

Doctors should not be cheerleaders. They shouldn’t be flowery with their language about weight-loss treatments. And they sure as hell shouldn’t pitch miracle cures to the public.

This is why Dr. Mehmet Oz must be exposed. He should be removed from his position at Columbia University and shown the Yellow Brick Road.

He first came to attention on Oprah Winfrey’s show five years ago. Since then, he’s fronted a popular daytime television program, the Dr. Oz Show. Ratings are generally high. He’s well-trusted. Until recently, that is.

Last year, he was called before a Senate committee on consumer protection and given a public lashing for his promotion of fraudulent weight-loss products. For many, Oz came across as a quack and a huckster.

He admitted he was a bit of a cheerleader, using flowery language, although he suggested that it was important to advertise multiple views on the show. He also admitted that some of the products he’s suggested his viewers use don’t necessarily have “the scientific muster to present as fact.”

John Oliver, of  Last Week Tonight, came down hard on Oz. He taunted and belittled the TV doctor. He used all the bells and whistles he could, including Steve Buscemi, to continue the public lashing.

Likewise, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni described Oz as "a carnival barker" and "a one-man morality play about the temptations of mammon and the seduction of applause...."

Then, in more recent weeks, a group of high-profile doctors called for the removal of Oz in a public letter. They say he’s pushing “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work.

He has displayed an “egregious lack of integrity,” said the letter, and Oz has shown “disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine.”

But Columbia has not removed Oz from his faculty position, citing the big ideas of academic freedom and freedom of expression.

For years, Oz has been a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon. Instead of just surgery, he now acknowledges that he acts as a ray of hope for his audience and for American consumers. They want to lost weight. The public wants to lose weight. So it’s his job, he feels, to promote alternative healing traditions and any evidence that might support them.

The letter, of course, has a different take. It notes that he has “misled and endangered” the public with this approach.

This is certainly true with green coffee, which is just one of the products Dr. Oz has promoted. Green coffee refers to a dietary supplement called Pure Green Coffee, whose manufacturers have claimed stunningly high weight-loss possibilities.

The Federal Trade Commission disagrees. And it has sued the makers of Pure Green Coffee, accusing them of making bogus claims and tricking vulnerable American consumers. The drugs, the FTC says, are ineffective.

Dr. Oz, however, has taken none of this lying down. In late April, he came back at his critics, including the 10 doctors who had penned the damning letter.

In a frisky defense of himself, Oz restated convictions about informing consumers about whether food at their stores originates from genetically modified organisms.

As for the letter, Oz characterized the letter as a smear intended to silence him and vowed: "We will not be silenced."

He suggested that the biotech industry and makers of GMOs were behind the attack.

So what to make of this?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by Frank L. Baum, all of the characters are searching for something. Dorothy is looking for a way home. The Scarecrow wants a brain, whereas the Tin Man wants a heart and the Lion desires courage.

The only way to attain their goals is to visit the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City. Only with his magic will their wishes be granted. As it turns out, the wizard is a fraud. He’s just a ordinary man trying to protect his position and his empire.

It is the same with TV’s Dr. Oz. As Americans seek out their own desires,  be it weight loss or low blood pressure, it’s best to be wary of false wizards. 

For all his bluster and posturing, it’s time for Dr. Oz to leave get in his hot air balloon and leave the Emerald City.

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