Dr. Oz to critics: No "conflict of interest" on TV show

Apr 17, 2015 5:59 PM by CBS/AP, Photo: World Economic Forum / Michael Wuertenberg / MGN

NEW YORK -- Dr. Mehmet Oz is defending himself against 10 doctors who've accused him of promoting "quack treatments" on his TV show.

Oz said in a statement Friday that his show provides "multiple points of view" including his own. He added that his own views are offered "without conflict of interest."

A group of 10 prominent doctors from around the country sent a letter to Columbia University this week urging the university to remove Oz from its faculty.

In a letter addressed to Dr. Lee Goldman, Columbia's Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine, they wrote:

"We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery.

"As described here and here, as well as in other publications, Dr. 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. Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.

"Thus, Dr. Oz is guilty of either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgements about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both. Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz's presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable."

The author of the letter, Dr. Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, told CBS News that in his view, "a person who endangers patients and is a menace to public health should not be on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution."

A Columbia spokesman said the school is "committed to the principle of academic freedom."

Oz -- in addition to being a TV personality first made famous on "Oprah" -- is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon and vice-chair of the department of surgery at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he says "our mantra is we train doctors to save lives." In addition, he occasionally teaches.

He has come under fire before for making unsubstantiated claims and promoting questionable products on his syndicated program, "The Dr. Oz Show."

A 2011 episode about arsenic in apple juice prompted an angry rebuttal from the FDA, which called his report "irresponsible and misleading."

And last summer, Oz was called before Congressto testify at a Senate hearing about deceptive advertising for over-the-counter diet supplements after he sang the praises of green coffee bean extract as a "miracle" weight loss pill.

At the hearing, Oz defended his approach and the value of introducing viewers to a range of alternative treatments.

"My show is about hope," he said. "We've engaged millions in programs -- including programs we did with the CDC -- to get folks to realize there are different ways they can rethink their future," he said.

The controversy did not die down after his testimony. The company behind the"miracle" diet supplement in question later agreed to pay a $3.5 million settlement over false advertising. A study that purported to prove the product's weight-loss benefits turned out to be based on fraudulent data and was retracted.

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