In their Newsweek Cover story whose link is entitled “Why Oprah’s Health Advice Can make You Sick“, writers Pat Wingert and Weston Kovsova have finally broken the cone of mainstream media silence that surrounds Oprah, letting everyone else in on the dirty little secret that we doctors have known for some time now – Oprah is practicing bad medicine without a licence.
Because the truth is, some of what Oprah promotes isn’t good, and a lot of the advice her guests dispense on the show is just bad. The Suzanne Somers episode wasn’t an oddball occurrence. This kind of thing happens again and again on Oprah….She has the power to summon the most learned authorities on any subject; who would refuse her? Instead, all too often Oprah winds up putting herself and her trusting audience in the hands of celebrity authors and pop-science artists pitching wonder cures and miracle treatments that are questionable or flat-out wrong, and sometimes dangerous.
Oprah’s response to the Newsweek article is self-serving and disingenuous. She hides behind what she calls the ‘intelligence” of her viewers to sift through the crap she presents them to find what’s right for them.
For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors’ medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers. I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.
I believe my viewers understand the medical information presented on the show is just that—information—not an endorsement or prescription.
Drs Northrup and Oz – Not just innocent bystanders
Wingert and Kosova also take on Christian Northrup, Oprah’s menopause Guru, for her new age medical opinions that are just plan bad advice. Northrup recommends iodine supplementation, unnecessary in almost anyone, and soy, which actually interferes with thyoid hormone absorption. Worse still are her theories about the causes of thyroid disease.
As she explains in her book, “in many women, thyroid dysfunction develops because of an energy blockage in the throat region, the result of a lifetime of ‘swallowing’ words one is aching to say.
Like Northrup, Dr Oz sat by unquestioning while Suzanne Somers and Dr Hall have spouted incorrect medical information.
One could argue that Oprah is the victim of bad advice from these two doctors, whose need for her endorsement has led to their unwillingness to challenge her in public. But I disagree. What would happen if Dr Northrup Or Oz were to actually argue with Suzanne Somers on Oprah’s show? I’ll tell you what – they’d get relegated to a seat in the audience along with the rest of the good doctors who dare to speak the truth to the emperor. Oprah would find some other quack to sit next to Suzanne Somers while she spews her fallacies. Don’t kid yourself. This is, after all, the woman who gave the entire CDC a whopping 30 second written statment in response to Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine nonsense.
No, Oprah is no victim here – she is utterly in control.
Should Dr Oprah be Sued for Malpractice?
I think it’s time Dr Oprah deals with what every other doctor in America has to deal with – a malpractice case. In fact, I’m shocked that someone hasn’t sued her by now for an adverse outcome related to a treatment she has touted (or in the case of vaccines, advised them to avoid). Here’s one suit she may have narrowly avoided –
In March 2007, the month after the first two shows on The Secret, Oprah invited a woman named Kim Tinkham on the program. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and her doctors were urging surgery and chemotherapy. But Tinkham wrote Oprah to say that she had decided to forgo this treatment and instead use The Secret to cure herself. On the show, Oprah seemed genuinely alarmed that Tinkham had taken her endorsement of The Secret so seriously. “When my staff brought this letter to me, I wanted to talk to her,” Oprah told the audience. “I said, get her in here, OK?” On air, Oprah urged the woman to listen to her doctors. “I don’t think that you should ignore all of the advantages of medical science and try to, through your own mind now because you saw a Secret tape, heal yourself,” she said. A few weeks earlier, Oprah could not say enough in praise of The Secret as the guiding philosophy of her life. Now she said that people had somehow gotten the wrong idea. “I think that part of the mistake in translation of The Secret is that it’s used to now answer every question in the world. It is not the answer to all questions,” she instructed. “I just wanted to say it’s a tool. It is not the answer to everything.”
While Oprah did the right thing and brought that woman onto her show to tell her to get to a conventional doctor, are there women who missed the follow up recant? How about those women out there taking hormones without being advised of their risks, or failing to vaccinate a child who subsequently becomes ill from a vaccine-preventable disease?
Maybe some clever lawyer will see dollar signs in Newsweek’s cover and get a class action suit going on behalf of Oprah’s viewers whose trust she has betrayed. After all, those are some deep pockets there at Harpo Productions.
I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Previous posts about Oprah on this blog
- Oprah – I am Menopause (And so Can You!)