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In an earlier edition of this story published on April 23, 2015, Yahoo Health incorrectly identified Dr. Scott Atlas as the doctor who had previously been jailed for Medicaid fraud. We have corrected subsequent editions of this story, and sincerely apologize for this error.
Dr. Oz has become one of America’s most divisive public figures. He has legions of fans relying on his blended health advice, watching his daytime talk show for information about their health — but the medical community’s criticism of his approach is growing.
On Thursday, he used his largest platform to take on his many critics after, 10 doctors from institutions like Stanford, the University of California and the University of North Carolina shipped a signed petition off to Columbia last week. In it, the group called for Dr. Oz’s dismissal from the University and his post as Vice Chair of the Department of Surgery.
Dr. Oz defends himself at a Congressional hearing last year. (Photo: Corbis)
In the first segment of his April 23rd show, he said he was “surprised” by the removal letter, calling the move “brazen.” Then, Oz dove into his method for discussing public health.
“My life’s work has been built around one simple message: you have a right and a responsibility to become a world expert on your own body,” he said. “And the way you do that is by having access to the best, most current information; multiple points of view, and diverse opinions. That’s the best way you can make an informed decision about you and your family’s health. Figuring out how to talk about your health, and how to talk to you about it, can be difficult, and there’s been a backlash to my approach in some parts of the medical community.”
Dr. Oz has received harsh pushback from the medical community and health critics since he stood before the Senate last summer to defend himself against “miracle” weight-loss supplements he featured on his show — something he said was likely not the motivation for this most-recent attack.
“Why now?” Dr. Oz said. “Many in the media claim it has to do with my Senate testimony last June on weight loss supplements — but we stopped mentioning any of these products a year ago, so it’s got to be something else. And the clue, as it turns out, is in the doctors petition. At the center of this is criticism is my call to action that all GMO foods be labeled — specifically a show I taped recently about a genetically modified apple.”
Dr. Oz showed clips from the airing, where he invited the GMO apple’s creator, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, to give their side of the story, along with a pro-labeling expert. “I have never judged GMO foods, but just like 64 countries around the world, I support GMO labeling so you can decide on the foods for your family… “I hope you can see from that show that, contrary to what my attackers say, I take very seriously the idea of presenting all sides of any scientific argument that affects your health.”
The TV doc claimed the current push to delegitimize his advice surrounded some of the 10 petition-signing doctors’ ties to an organization called American Council on Science and Health, which supports GMO foods.
Related: What Are GMO Foods?
“The 10 doctors who attacked me got what they intended: sensational headlines and soundbytes,” Oz said. “Now I have long believed that doctors should never fight their battles, or each other, in public — but now I believe I must. Many papers mistakenly claimed my own hospital’s doctors were out to get me. That’s just not true. These doctors are criticizing me for promoting treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain — something I tell you everyday on this program I never do.”
In addition to the group’s support of genetically-modified foods, Dr. Oz also slammed some these “mysterious” doctors for black marks on their records — like Dr. Henry Miller of Stanford’s Hoover Institute, who reportedly supported tobacco in the 90s. Meanwhile, Dr. Gilbert Ross, executive director of the American Council on Science and Health, has been jailed for Medicaid fraud.
Dr. Oz did not mention all the doctors in the letter, or if they all had ties to groups supporting GMO foods. However, it’s worth noting that the group signing the petition is not the only body calling the TV personality onto the carpet. The Center for Accountability in Science, for instance, has found fault in many of his claims, including the risks surrounding GMO foods: “Major scientific bodies around the globe agree that genetically-modified foods pose no risk to human health,” they write.
On the show, Dr. Oz readdressed his personal position: only that all GMOs should be clearly labeled. In an op/ed for TIME published just in advance of the show, he further clarified his stance on the topic.
“As a scientist, I am not that concerned about GMOs themselves, but I am worried about why they were created,” Dr. Oz writes. “Highly toxic herbicides would kill crops unless they were genetically modified, but with the genetic upgrade, these plants can be doused with much higher doses, with potential complications to the environment… I would argue that unleashing these products creates a real-time experiment on the human species. Sure, we will eventually know if these pesticides are a problem, but at the expense of the pain and suffering and disease in real people. I owe my kids more. And so do you.”
On his Thursday airing, Dr. Oz brought up his recent petition against a pesticide containing glyphosate, a substance the World Health Organization recently called, “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The letter against glyphosate received more than 100,000 signatures, enough to get it on the President’s desk.
Dr. Oz indicated the timing of the group’s letter to remove him from Columbia follows a bill that was introduced to Congress called The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. Critics call it the DARK Act, or the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” Act.
On the April 23rd show, Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group said that The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act is a “radical, radical proposal,” making it virtually impossible for the FDA to mandate labeling. Despite this, he stated 90 percent of Americans say they want to know if they’re consuming genetically-modified foods.
One other regular criticism of Oz’s practices, which he did not address much on the show, is his emphasis on alternative medical treatments. Instead, he brought it up in his TIME editorial, claiming his philosophy is that sometimes these treatments work in special cases — but his stance is frequently misunderstood.
“It’s vital that I drive the following point home: My exploration of alternative medicine has never been intended to take the place of conventional medicine, but rather as additive,” he writes. “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… This can lead to confusion and irritation when analyzed by conventional physicians.”
In the end, Dr. Oz insisted that his only goal was to educate America, so everyone can make better decisions about their own health. “I appreciate our honest discussion,” he said on his Thursday show. “That’s what’s supposed to happen. Public shaming and bullying me is not how it should be done.”