Medical malpractice claims are applicable only to medical professionals and patients who are in a mutually consented physician-patient relationship. Doctors in this relationship are required to provide a specific standard of care to their patients, and breaking that care can result in injuries and malpractice cases. But what about doctors who offer advice from afar? Some patients haven't even met their doctors.
TV shows like The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors dispense dozens of recommendations to viewers each day and garner millions of views a year. But studies have shown the medical and health recommendations they provide to be largely misleading.
Doctors on these shows are not held to doctor-patient relationship standards, so patients who follow bad advice from these sources are left alone to deal with the consequences.
A 2014 study by the British Medical Journal focused on 40 randomly chosen episodes of both The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors shows during 2013. The group documented and evaluated all recommendations made in the episodes, and researched evidence to support 80 randomly selected recommendations from each show.
The results were discouraging.
The study found evidence that contradicted 15% of the claims on The Dr. Oz Show and 14% of claims on The Doctors, and found no evidence to support 39% of the recommendations on The Dr. Oz Show and 24% of recommendations on The Doctors.
The Dr. Oz Show gave out an average of 12 recommendations per episode, and The Doctors gave an average of 11 recommendations. For both shows, the rate of disclosure of potential risks of the recommendations was a mere 0.4%.
According to the study, each show reached over 2 million viewers per day in 2013, and The Dr. Oz Show was ranked among the top five talk shows in America. Studies have shown that television is a significant source of health information for many Americans, but only one-third to one-half of the medical recommendations on these shows were based on believable or somewhat believable evidence.
Guests invited to speak on the shows were found to make 65% of the recommendations, but only 4 out of 924 instances of conflicts of interests were acknowledged. The creators of the shows use their television time as a platform to entertain and to promote sales of so-called medical cures.
Dr. Oz in particular has come under heavy scrutiny in the last few years for inaccurate public claims about everything from the Ebola virus going airborne to the effects of green coffee beans on weight loss (a claim that brought him before a congressional hearing).
Creators of the study on the two shows did note that it was difficult to determine the difference between recommendations and mere implications on the shows, but that seems to be an ambiguity that will carry to the viewers.
The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors are not the only two shows that dole out questionable advice. Countless television personalities and internet sites offer advice on which supplements to take or what diet trends to follow, and countless more claim to “help” viewers to self-diagnose.
Only your personal doctor can provide trustworthy medical advice that will take your complete medical history into account. So before ordering rice socks for an energy boost or inviting a Reiki master to your surgery, consult with your own physician.