America’s Doctor

From Julia Belluz’s portrait of Dr. Oz in Vox, now apparently America’s most famous and most trusted physician:

This setback didn’t slow down Oz in his study of alternative medicine — or his embrace of fame. In the early 2000s, he worked with a reiki healer named Raven Keyes. She told me recently, “My reiki master is the archangel Gabriel. All I have to do is ask Gabriel to activate all the angels, and everybody’s angels come to life.” In the operating room, she said, she’d perch on a stool behind the anesthesiologist and transfer her good energy. “I’m connecting with the divine light within me and allowing myself to absorb the divine light in myself so it expands outward.”

Dr. Oz embodies the tension between personal freedom and professional responsibility. If one-way communication via a television or radio show doesn’t qualify as medical advice or constitute a physician-patient relationship, then how do we define it? Because anecdotes are apparently not uncommon about people who trust Oz via TV more than their actual physicians:

One reported that her dad had a heart attack and five stents placed in his heart, which required him to take aspirin and Plavix to prevent blood clots. “He was watching Dr. Oz, who said Plavix was not necessary, so he stopped taking it. About a month later, he had another massive [heart attack] and coded and had to be shocked back to life.” She continued: “My dad admitted to following Dr. Oz’s advice and not asking his own cardiologist.”

When a personality like Oz speaks about health and is a physician, he or she is essentially doling out medical advice. But right now, we wouldn’t even consider holding them accountable. Oz doesn’t even need to disclose his COIs when it comes to fat busting green coffee bean extract or other natural miracles.

Update: John Oliver weighs in on the most recent Oz controversy, as Oz responds to his critics who want him off Columbia’s faculty.

And if you haven’t already seen it, Oliver’s awesome original Oz segment.

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