Wednesday, May. 25, 2011

Doctor's Orders: A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

Oprah, M.D.? Not exactly, but her 7 million daily viewers are fed a steady diet of health tips. While well-known guests like Dr. Mehmet Oz offer sound advice on eating and fitness, the program at times is a forum for some questionable medical claims. As Newsweek noted in a cover story, actress Jenny McCarthy has used Oprah's show to link some well-respected childhood vaccines to autism — a claim many experts dismiss — with hardly a challenge from the host. Suzanne Somers and Robin McGraw, wife of Dr. Phil McGraw, have used the show's reach to endorse hormone therapy for women, though it can also boost the risk of heart attacks and strokes. While Oprah is careful to acknowledge both sides in medical debates, many experts fear that nuance is lost amid the adoring reception given to the latest miracle cure. Some observers also question Oprah's enthusiasm for novel cosmetic surgery procedures, which occasionally lead to unwelcome complications down the road. As Dr. V. Leroy Young, a plastic surgeon, told the New York Times in 2006, "If she told viewers that arsenic would make them beautiful, we'd be getting hundreds of calls from people asking us for arsenic."