By Nigel Boys
Although Mehmet Oz was educated at Harvard University, was a world-class cardiothoracic surgeon for years and has his own daytime television program, The Dr. Oz Show, he is being called a “charlatan” by 10 top doctors in a letter to Columbia University.
In their letter urging the school to remove Dr. Oz from the position of vice-chairman and professor of surgery at their College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Henry Miller called the 54-year-old Cleveland, Ohio-born son of Turkish immigrants a “quack.”
“He’s a quack and a fake and a charlatan,” said the Fellow in Scientific Philosophy at Stanford University. “I think I know the motivation at Columbia. They’re star-struck, and like having on their faculty the best-known doctor in the country.”
The medical researcher and columnist, who was formerly with the FDA and was the first person to sign the letter, went on to say, “The fact is that his advice endangers patients, and this doesn’t seem to faze them. Whether they’re hoping Oprah will come and endow a center for homeopathic medicine, I don’t know,” the doctor said in reference to Oprah Winfrey, the woman who boosted Dr. Oz’s career, reported the New York Daily News.
Miller continued, “Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz’s presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.”
Nine other doctors from around the country, including Dr. Joel Tepper, cancer researcher at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine and Dr. Gilbert Ross, executive director of the American Counsel on Science and Health, sent the letter to Lee Goldman. The dean of Columbia’s Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine read how the top doctors believed that Oz had pushed “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work and “mislead and endangered” the public by promoting quack treatments.
“We find it a shame that he has fled from the ethical and responsible practice of medicine to exploit his television popularity,” the letter read. They continue that Dr. Oz’s “various quack propositions that he is promulgating on his TV show” has “manifested an egregious lack of integrity in the interest of personal financial gain.”
“Dr. Oz is guilty of either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgments about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both,” the letter continued.
In a statement issued to The Associated Press on Thursday, Doug Levy, spokesman for the Columbia University Medical Center, said “Columbia is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussions.”
Although the renowned cardiothoracic surgeon has hosted The Dr. Oz Show for the past five years after first finding fame on The Oprah Winfrey Show, this is not the first time he has come under fire for his recommendations on television. He appeared before a US Senate panel in June 2014, who blasted him for his endorsement of “miracle” weight-loss products that didn’t work.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) told Oz, “I don’t know why you need to say this stuff, because you know it’s not true.”
The doctors’ letter also stated the fact that some of the products Oz advised his viewers to use on his show “don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact.” They also mentioned his endorsement of green coffee bean extract, raspberry ketones and the pumpkin-like fruit garcinia cambogia.
Although Oz’s television appearances have forced him to cut back his hours at Columbia as a researcher, teacher and physician, he still occasionally teaches, according to Levy.
More “doctors who have a respect for evidence-based medicine and science” are interested in attaching their names to the Oz-bashing letter, according to Miller.