Dr. Oz’s Hippocratic Oath: The Ethics of the Magic, Miracles and Breakthroughs of “America’s Doctor”
By Adrienne Guckenberger
I grew up watching the Oprah Winfrey Show. As a young girl struggling with body image issues, I remember tuning in everyday, at 4 p.m., with my grandmother. Oprah had a lifelong struggle with her weight, and I identified with that. Whatever she promoted, I bought into—whether it was her book club, working out, new diets, fashion trends or health suggestions—Oprah was our guru, and whatever she said I gullibly believed.
Hook, line and sinker.
Before hosting his own show, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, spent five seasons as a consultant on Oprah’s Show. He first appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004, and quickly became part of Winfrey’s team of experts (alongside Phil McGraw, Rachel Ray and Suze Orman). His current television show, Dr. Oz, was actually launched by Oprah’s own television station, HARPO, back in 2009.
So, naturally, when Oprah decided to launch The Dr. Oz Show, back in 2009, I—along with millions of others—tuned in and ate up everything the doctor said. With an audience of nearly 4 million viewers, it was clear Dr. Oz must’ve been onto something, right? After all, it had Oprah’s seal of approval, and that was as good as gold-at least to me.
I remember Oprah used to refer to Dr. Oz as “America’s Doctor.” And that always stuck in the back of my mind whenever I saw ads in magazines or online that touted an endorsement from the great Dr. Oz.
Then one day I started to notice that Dr. Oz sure seemed to be endorsing a lot of weight loss products. I started to ask myself if Dr. Oz was spouting off “feel-good-self-help” mumbo jumbo or voicing an actual medical opinion?
This debate has been—and is still—up for speculation. But what isn’t up for speculation are some of the more controversial ideas he has raised on his show: arsenic in apple juice, reparative therapy of homosexuals (yes, really), pushing green tea extract as “magic” and a “miracle,” as well as the anti-aging benefits of Resveratol, always careful not appear to be selling or endorsing any particular supplement or product, but still constantly walking that blurry line between medical doctor and snake oil salesman.
For me, his reliability became most concerning with his rhetoric for backing up his claims: “miracle,” “magic” and “breakthrough” come to mind.
The way he weaves between alternative medicine and cold hard data, for most viewers (myself included), it became impossible to decipher what was fact and what was fiction.
Recently, Cheryl Tiegs cited him as a credible source when describing how she didn’t like that people were talking about full-figured women after Ashley Graham stole her thunder by appearing on 1 of 3 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue covers. Tiegs was quoted saying, “your waist should be smaller than 35 [inches]…that’s what Dr. Oz said and I’m sticking to it.” Since when did weight become an indicator of health? Since Dr. Oz said so? What research is backing up that claim? The same research he used to push green coffee beans for weight loss?
And aren’t doctors led by a moral compass? I mean, if Dr. Oz said it, how could it be untrue? We blindly assume that all doctors, who take the Hippocratic Oath, will uphold specific ethical and moral standards. But, this is, unfortunately, not always a given.
When Oprah announced she was buying a 10% stake in Weight Watchers as well as becoming their spokesperson, I started to lose faith. The final nail in the weight loss coffin was when she said, “inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be.”
For me, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and to say there was a disconnect felt like an understatement. Each time I believed what Oprah and Dr. Oz said, I was slowly selling a piece of my self-esteem, self worth, and self-confidence.
You be the judge. But my mom always told me “if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.”
Guest Blogger: Adrienne is a writer, feminist, fat activist and blogger. She’s a strong advocate for women’s rights, body positivity, and mental health. She enjoys being a co-foster parent to her neighbor’s kitty, Tula, is obsessed with horror films, and has recently become fascinated by The Talking Heads. She lives in Portland, OR with her husband, Jim.