Monday, June 08, 2009

oprah winfrey's medical misinformation complex

Newsweek | Yesterday, the latest issue of NEWSWEEK hit the stands, featuring Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert's smart, gutsy cover story on what one might call the Oprah Winfrey Medical Misinformation Complex, were one not so afraid of a lawsuit. Shorter version (though you should read the whole thing): Oprah, who has tremendous influence and credibility, promotes health "cures" that may be at best ineffective and at worst dangerous. Both media and medical bloggers took note of the story, and have been discussing its merits online. Some examples:

PZ Myers, a biologist, associate professor at the University of Minnesota and a blogger at ScienceBlogs was one of the first responders:
It's about time one of the big media players pointed out that she is promoting dangerous fake therapies…all with a happy smile, of course, and a message of positive self-esteem for women. It's still credulous glop, though.
The article really struck a nerve with Dr. Dave Gorski, a blogger at Science-Based Medicine (bookmark it: the site is a great source of thorough, critical reviews of both the latest research and medical fads). The first sentence quoted here can only be described as a "run-on of rage":
Oprah has about as close to no critical thinking skills when it comes to science and medicine as I’ve ever seen, and she uses the vast power and influence her TV show and media empire give her in order to subject the world to her special brand of mystical New Age thinking and belief in various forms of what can only be characterized as dubious medical therapies at best and quackery at worst.

No one, and I mean no one, brings pseudoscience, quackery, and antivaccine madness to more people than Oprah Winfrey does every week...Consequently, whether fair or unfair, she represents the perfect face to put on the problem that we supporters of science-based medicine face when trying to get the message out to the average reader about unscientific medical practices, and that’s why I am referring to the pervasiveness of pseudoscience infiltrating medicine as the “Oprah-fication” of medicine.
More scathingness at the Newsweek blog.