“Dr” Oz, celebrity physician

He really is a Dr Nick.

And then there is this horrible report from Jezebel about his research activities. I’ve mentioned before that part of the way I worked through college was as an assistant in a med school animal surgery, where I’d help out with prep and cleanup and animal care for researchers doing experiments on dogs and cats and a few other kinds of animals, so this is familiar ground to me. I know what this stuff is like, and I also know that the majority of the experimenters were deeply concerned for the care and welfare of the animals (that’s why I was hired — despite not having a degree yet, people like me could work in the lab and advocate for the animals). Would you believe that about half my job was just hanging out in the animal room, playing with cats and dogs? That was nice. The other half was helping to stick recording instruments in their brains and hearts. Not so nice, and a reason why I’d rather work on fish and arthropods.

A warning about the Jezebel article, though: it doesn’t really say anything about the purpose or results of the animal experimentation, which means they’re ignoring a big part of the story. I mean, I assisted in the catheterization of the carotid artery in dogs, which wasn’t for their benefit at all, but was important for monitoring blood flow in the heart — you couldn’t do detailed analysis of circulatory responses without doing that. So I’m wondering what specific goal Oz’s experiments on dogs had, and this isn’t mentioned at all in the article.

Maybe he was actually doing good research? Ha ha ha. This was at the same time he was going on Oprah’s show and his own show to peddle green coffee bean extracts and other such quackery, so I’d be surprised. Another possibility is that this was part of medical training exercises. Some of the animal surgeries I monitored were done by medical students, who were basically practicing basic techniques before being turned loose to cut into humans.

There is no excuse, however, for neglect or abuse of animals under your care. Some of what is reported is simply bad animal care.

Dell’Orto testified that a dog experimented on by Oz’s team experienced lethargy, vomiting, paralysis, and kidney failure, but wasn’t euthanized for a full two days. She alleged other truly horrifying examples of gratuitously cruel treatment of dogs, including at least one dog who was kept alive for a month for continued experimentation despite her unstable, painful condition, despite how data from her continued experimentation was deemed unusable. According to Dell’Orto, one Oz-led study resulted in a litter of puppies being killed by intracardiac injection with syringes of expired drugs inserted in their hearts without any sedation.

That first dog: that’s a massive experimental failure. I want to know what was done for it in those two days; even from a cruelly utilitarian standpoint, that’s a huge expense, because you are obligated to give round-the-clock care to an animal you fucked up. Did they? Or did they just let it suffer for days?

That second dog is a similar failure. Why was it unstable and in pain? What possible information did they think they could get from a botched surgery?

The litter of puppies brought back more unpleasant memories. As the low level lab grunt, euthanizing animals post-experiment was one of my duties. The standard process was to take the animal in a back room, out of the general care area, calming it, and putting in a butterfly needle (I got quite good at that, and could almost stick a vein with the animal hardly noticing), and give it a general anesthetic to gently put it to sleep. Stabbing it in the heart and throwing it in a bag? No way.

Columbia University was fined $2000 for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. That’s a pittance, a mere token. It just tells us that there were definitely some sloppy procedures in that lab.

Oh, also significant is that the accusations are all against researchers and techs working with and for Oz. It’s not as if Oz himself was doing any of the actual dirty work himself, he had a quack business & entertainment empire to run. I tried looking up his research on PubMed, and he has quite a few publications, but most of them are clinical studies, nothing to do with animal experimentation. I did find this ironic gem of a paper, Impact of unauthorized celebrity endorsements on cardiovascular healthcare, which begins with an anecdote about Kim Kardashian recommending pills on her show, and ends by suggesting it is crucial that doctors work with celebrities.

In the future, it is crucial that the cardiologists and other healthcare professionals work with celebrities in order to counter the negative influences of fake celebrity healthcare endorsements. First, cardiologists should speak to their patients about the legitimacy of celebrity advice and the source of the health information. Comments by patients of recent celebrity endorsements should not be received with annoyance, but rather as a crucial opportunity to start educational conversations about cardiovascular health. Second, a certification/registration process or database by the FTC or equivalent regulatory body, should be formed to double-check whether a celebrity actually allowed a company or advertiser to use his or her persona, body or reputation to endorse a product or service related to cardiovascular health. Ultimately, there is an urgent need for large-scale studies to help researchers better understand where people receive false advertisements and what compels them to act on this false information.

The authors have no relevant affiliations or financial involvement with any organization or entity with a financial interest in or financial conflict with the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript. This includes employment, consultancies, honoraria, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, grants or patents received or pending, or royalties.

Yeah, the quack celebrity doctor has no interest in telling other doctors that they ought to work more with celebrities.


  1. chrislawson says

    There is no need for doctors to practice surgery on animals. In my medical training, we only did a handful of pracs with real animals. With one exception they had been euthanised before we started. That exception was a frog. And I learned nothing from those pracs that needed the dissection of a real animal.

    I did do a lot of human dissection for anatomy learning. This was with cadavers of people who had volunteered for their bodies to be used this way after they died. Most medical schools are moving away from teaching with cadavers due to cost and legal complexities. Dissection is being replaced by computer modules. There is one important loss from this: the computer modules tend to have a textbook anatomy whereas in a dissecting room with several cadavers you very quickly learn that there is a huge amount of anatomical variation between people. This is, though, not an inevitable shortcoming of computer anatomy teaching. It just means the material needs to include variations (and I expect some packages already do; it’s been a long time since I’ve been invoved in anatomy lessons!).

    The best way to teach surgery is not with animals, but with normal humans, under close supervision from an experienced surgeon/proceduralist, after demonstrating competence at simpler procedures. This is how it works in public hospitals. The specialist surgeons supervise the registrars, who supervise the JMOs, who supervise the interns, thereby creating a cycle of increasing competency. Most patients accept this process and consent to surgery under these conditions. Yes, this can break down (a colleague killed a patient doing a pleural tap they were not familiar with because they were afraid to ask for help), but the solution is better communication and a culture of accountability, not using animals for practice.

    Some simple procedures can be taught using medical models, e.g. cannulating arm veins. But even then, this is only suitable for a very basic level of experience. None of the models feel right and sometimes can even be counterproductive (e.g. a DRE model where the prostate cancer was way too hard — we don’t want students thinking they have to feel a brick-hard nodule to diagnose a cancer!). Plastic does not feel like tissue and needles don’t behave like they do on actual people. It’s fine for a basic familiarity with things like how to hold your hands, what angle to use, and so on, but it’s only preliminary and it can’t teach how to cannulate difficult veins, a task young doctors will face.

    The only thing we can’t completely replace animal surgery for is research. It requires robust ethical accountability, though. Judging by these reports, it does not seem that Dr Oz’s team took their ethical duties very seriously.

  2. Larry says

    And just like the revelation that Georgia Senate candidate, Herschel Walker, paid for an abortion making absolutely zero difference to his GOP supporters, I’m confident this will mean jack shit to Oz’s. Along with the unwavering support of TFG by the MAGAts, not withstanding his role in attempting to overthrow as US election and his mysterious need to steal classified documents, these all make one question their steadfast, unwavering pro-life and pro-law and order beliefs as being just for convivence, easy to cast aside for political power.

  3. says

    The med students I was working with were MD/PhD candidates. They were learning experimental procedures that they would probably do on animals: chronic implants, laminectomies, that sort of thing (this was a neuro program).

  4. birgerjohansson says

    A neuro program?
    It reminds me, Herschel Walker has said sometimes he cannot control his brain.
    (Congressman, singing)
    “Insane in the membrane,
    Insane in the brain”

  5. says

    I have seen several acts of animal cruelty in labs when students were left unsupervised without training to euthanise experimental animals. However I have a quack story to relate. My wife got roped into a multi-level marketing scheme selling “super ” juice. Juice blends with high levels of antioxidants with claims to restore health and slow down aging among other impossible miracles. It came with sciency sounding claims how the antioxidants mopped up free radicals in the body and prevented cell death. Now cell death is a normal part of life as a way of removing damaged cells. When cells don’t die as they normally should they can go on to produce cancer. The glossy pamphlets featured white-coated doctors with impressive sounding qualifications and claims that the product had won several industry medals for quality.
    A quick check on the medals revealed that they had awarded them to themselves so next was to check on the veracity of a chart showing antioxidant levels in various juices purported to have come from the FDA. Initially I couldn’t find it on the FDA website until I used the wayback machine to find the relevant page. It was accompanied by a note that the FDA had removed the page because people, presumably the juice sellers were using it to make unsubstantiated health claims.
    Next I did a literature search to see what sort of research had been done on these products. NMot much was accessible because of blasted paywalls but I did come across an interesting classic double blind study where one of these products was tested against a placebo. The study was terminated after the group receiving the juice developed a significantly higher incidence of cancer.
    So I armed my wife with all this evidence to show to the quacks pushing this overpriced woo-juice. Their response was that they were doctors and I knew nothing because I was “only a scientist”. Seriously these grifting charlatans need to be regulated to within an inch of their well-padded bank accounts.

  6. raven says

    Most places I’ve worked refused to house and use human companion animals.
    Companion animals are dogs and cats to everyone else.

    Which was a good thing in my opinion.
    Their weren’t too many types of research where they were absolutely needed anyway.
    For large animal research, we had access to minipigs.
    There were many reasons for not using companion animals, most of them sort of dubious, but no one wanted to, so we just didn’t use them.

    This was partly to keep the animal rights people at bay.
    Once they broke in and took some of our rabbits and let them go in a park.
    These were domestic white rabbits and they just sat around until someone rescued them and took them away.

  7. chris61 says

    Like I commented in another thread, the surgeons may write the protocols and even perform some of the surgeries but they aren’t there (as I know from ~ 4 months of personal experience) for the follow-up care. That is carried out by others who may or may not be actually following the protocols they were provided with. The problem here was unlikely to be the protocols themselves ( and if it was that is the fault of the committee who approved them) but with the techs and students who carried them out. Ultimately with the oversight provided by the administration. Which is why the university was fined, not Oz personally. As to whether or not it affected Oz’s ability to generate future funding – there is no evidence Oz was ever the PI on an NIH grant.

  8. moarscienceplz says

    I think celebrities should be allowed to to promote “supplements”, but only ones that have a high chance of being lethal. It would become a self-correcting problem.

  9. whheydt says

    Re: moarscienceplz @ #9…
    Only if it can be verified that the celebrity endorser is actually using said “supplements”.

  10. weylguy says

    It really warms my heart to know that Oprah Winfrey raked in hundred of millions promoting quacks like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz on her show (one isn’t really a medical doctor, but try telling his zillions of conservative, credulous fans that). Has Oprah ever apologized for foisting these snake-oil fakes on us, especially when one is likely to become a pro-Trump, anti-science U.S. senator? I didn’t think so.

  11. rrhain says

    @11, weylguy

    Phil McGraw is a doctor. His PhD is in clinical psychology. Please, let us not engage in the foolishness that those who have a PhD aren’t “real” doctors. Just as Jill Biden is “Dr. Biden” given her doctorate in education, Phil McGraw is also a “doctor.” And unlike “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger whose doctorate has nothing to do family therapy but is instead in anatomy, McGraw’s doctorate is in the field he is putting himself forward as: Psychology. He doesn’t claim to have an MD or to be practicing medicine.

    That’s he’s bad at being a psychologist doesn’t mean he isn’t a doctor of clinical psychology.

  12. rrhain says

    And a sad commentary on this: There are reports that the puppies that were killed with intracardiac injection of expired drugs were then dumped into a garbage bag which was then put in the cage with their living litter mates.

    The problem is that those reports come from PETA.

    And they lie about everything. Their own animal shelters have a 90% kill rate. They cannot be trusted.

    God, I hope this isn’t just somebody playing around. I mean, I truly hope that none of the accusations are true because animal cruelty is the big bad in this. But I’m hoping that if the accusations aren’t true, it isn’t because somebody is thinking they can screw around with our politics by putting out such a horrendous story only for it to come crashing down. My cynicism is destroying everything.

  13. StevoR says

    @ ^ rrhain : Yes, PETA have blown their credibility a long time ago.. I don’t trust them either.

    @11. weylguy :

    Has Oprah ever apologized for foisting these snake-oil fakes on us, especially when one is likely to become a pro-Trump, anti-science U.S. senator? I didn’t think so.

    Not exactly but see :


    Plus what Kimmel notes she should have said but didn’t here :


    Starting 6.06 mark there.

    Reminds me here that we could potentially have had an Oprah vs Trump presidential contest in 2020 :


    but for a lack of sign from God apparently..

    @7. raven : Minipigs = ??? please?

  14. Silentbob says

    @ ^

    Lol. This is coming from a guy who asked on a feminist blog what “white feminist” meant, and asked why anyone would capitalise “Black”.

    Come clean, Morales – have you actually been a parody all along? X-D

  15. Silentbob says

    … all I’m saying is don’t be intimidated by this wanker. I guarantee you if there were an award for least competent user of search engines on FtB, it would be called the “John Morales award”.

  16. chigau (違う) says

    How can you “guarantee” such a thing?
    What a ridiculous thing to say.

  17. Silentbob says

    @ ^

    I also “guarantee” you would be the winner of the John Morales Disingenuous Literalism award.


    By the way, you never answered my question:


    Is a white woman spewing anti-black racism and spitting on people “entitled or implicitly racist”? Because where we left off, your position was that Black women weren’t allowed to have a term for this.