Last week, a group of doctors unaffiliated with Columbia University lobbied the institution to cut ties with the vice-chairman of its surgery department, Dr. Mehmet Oz. In their letter, the doctors said Oz “has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops.”
Dr. Oz has responded in a Time op-ed, published online in advance of his expected reply to the criticisms on his show Thursday. Oz identified several of the doctors who wrote the letter as either advocates for GMO foods or practitioners with a shady history. He explained his choice to explore non-traditional medical practices on his program and clarified his stance on GMO foods.
“My exploration of alternative medicine has never been intended to take the place of conventional medicine, but rather as additive. Critics often imply that any exploration of alternative methods means abandoning conventional approaches. It does not. In fact, many institutions like mine use the names ‘complementary’ or ‘integrative’ medicine, which is also appropriate.
“These doctors criticized my ‘baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops,’ which is another false accusation. Whether you support genetically engineered crops or not, the freedom to make an informed choice should belong to consumers. The bill in Congress this month proposing to block states from independently requiring labeling offers a coup to pro-GMO groups.”
Columbia University responded to the letter from the doctors by saying it respects the expression rights of all of its faculty.
“[Columbia University is] committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”
Dr. Oz was called before a senate hearing last year that was intended to stem the tide of fake weight-loss products. In those hearings, Oz said he used “flowery language” to increase enthusiasm for weight loss. He defended himself by saying he believes in the products he promotes on the show and has himself been the victim of advertisers who use his image without permission.
“You know … the biggest disservice I have done for my audience? It’s that I never told then where to go to buy the products…. [it created a market for] fake stuff, real stuff, it doesn’t frankly matter and [they] start to use my name to start to sell.”
In Dr. Oz’s opinion piece in Time, he explained his methodology behind the show.
“I started my show to give TV audiences advice on how to find a good life, not to practice medicine on air. This means celebrating them wherever they are in their search for health, and offering tools to nudge them along in the right direction.”
[Dr. Mehmet Oz image courtesy of Getty]