Dr. Manny: Celebrity turns a good doctor into a snake oil pitchman

Dr. Mehmet Oz, known for his syndicated daily talk show, “The Dr. Oz Show,” came under some intense fire from Congress on Tuesday.  Members of the Senate’s consumer protection panel scolded the celebrity doctor for making misleading claims about various weight-loss aids – notably the dietary supplement known as green coffee extract.

The panel maintained that many of his claims were unscientific, arguing that Dr. Oz is encouraging money-hungry supplement peddlers to take advantage of an unsuspecting public.

"I get that you do a lot of good on your show," Chairman Claire McCaskill told Dr. Oz at the hearing, "but I don't get why you need to say this stuff, because you know it's not true."

Dr. Oz’s predicament is quite understandable.  He wants to be a doctor, but at the same time, he wants to be a talk show host and entertain people.

But the truth of the matter is that sometimes, medical information is boring.  And over the years, I’m sure that mounting pressures from his producers to increase ratings have transformed Dr. Oz into less of an educator, and more of an entertainer.

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Now I know what you’re going to say: “Dr. Manny, you’re just jealous, because you want a show like Dr. Oz.”  And my answer to that is: It may be true. But people who know me well know that I am too cranky and too opinionated for such a position.  Additionally, I care too much about the truth of medicine, so if I were to have a show, it would probably last two episodes.

But let’s get back to Dr. Oz. There is no doubt that he’s a brilliant surgeon with a great medical reputation.  Yet throughout the years, he has forgotten what made him a great doctor: truthful medical information.

Over time on his show, he’s included fewer genuine medical professionals, who spend countless days healing the most detrimental medical conditions in this country.  Instead, he replaced them with snake oil salespeople – vitamin gurus, nutritional experts, beauty consultants and more – and all of this razzle dazzle has ultimately led to Congress’ stern criticism.

Dr. Oz knows perfectly well that there’s no miracle pill for anything.  He knows perfectly well that the only miracle “pill” for weight loss is modifying one’s lifestyle habits, whether it’s through diet, exercise or meditation. And to his credit, Dr. Oz does talk about taking these measures. But as I said before, he has to entertain and create sensationalism in his show in order to compete in the same timeslot as Judge Judy, a very tough hour for daytime TV.

Perhaps what is most irritating about this whole scenario is that it serves as a reminder of our pill-happy culture.  In America, a person would rather spend $11.99 on a bottle of some nutritional supplement than go to the gym, cut out unhealthy foods or be seen by a health care professional.

The honorable men and women of our medical community know perfectly well that Dr. Oz has sold out.  He sold out to magazine covers, red carpets and the Hollywood crowd.

Of course, I say this all with peace and love, peace and love.