Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Salon's Prachi Gupta notes John

Oliver may not have figured out his show’s exact format yet, but week after week, he continues to raise “tough questions,” as his show has advertised, and often skewers his audience in the process. Whereas Stewart and Colbert take pains to seem like our friends, Oliver has made it clear, as he recently told NPR’s Terry Gross, that he is “no one’s friend.” So if “HBO is the moral wild west,” as Oliver said on CBS, then the host has successfully assumed the position of lone sheriff. 

If the talented host of HBO's Last Week Tonight is in fact the "lone sheriff" of "the moral wild west," he is guilty of selective enforcement.  On Sunday, Oliver (video of segment, below) slammed the marketing of dietary supplements and skewered Dr. Oz especially for claiming for having declared various substances as a "miracle cure" or "magical."  It's safe to assume that anything being claimed as a "miracle" is not, including the "Miracle on Ice," the defeat of the Soviet national hockey team by the U.S.

Oliver contends the nutritional supplement industry is "shockingly unregulated" and offered as evidence the 38 deaths in the USA from tryptophan supplements.  In the late 1980s.  Yes, Oliver went back to the late 1980s for specific fatal incidents and to shock us about the dangers of supplements.

Last month, Christiane Northrup, M.D. blogged

In 2010, there were 38,329 deaths from drug overdose (an injury death). However, 78% of all individuals (30,006) did not intentionally overdose, and 60 % (22,134) of these cases were related to pharmaceutical drugs. Included in the 60% are people who took their medication as directed by their doctor.

So in 2013 there were 22,134 deaths in the USA from pharmaceutical drugs.  

Surely, with nutritional supplements "shockingly unregulated"- and celebrities like Dr. Oz hawking the stuff- deaths from these substances must be skyrocketing.  Instead

In absolute stark contrast, there were no deaths from vitamin, mineral, or other herbal or nutritional supplements in 2010. Not even one! We know this from the U.S. National Poison Data Systems’ report.7 None of 57 Poison Control Centers across the U.S. reported any deaths from nutritional supplements.

The nutritional supplement industry probably is insufficiently unregulated- were it not, it would suffer a unique status in the American economy.  (Substances whose use is specifically claimed to shed pounds need always be met with skepticism.) The need for manufacturers of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances to be monitored more closely pales in comparison to the need in such industries as energy, finance, firearms, defense contracting, hospital, and so many others, including the pharmaceutical industry.

That may a digression but given Oliver's condemnation of Dr. Oz, consider a long-running television program hosted by an individual who expects to be referred to as "Doctor" but is not a medical doctor nor in possession of a license in the medical or any related field. Welcome, everyone, to "Dr. Phil," the program hosted by a man whose hucksterism puts Dr. Oz to shame, inasmuch as

McGraw ceased the practice of psychology. He kept his license current and in good standing until he elected to retire it 15 years later in 2006. Appearing on the Today Show in January 2008, McGraw said that he has made it "very clear" that his current work does not involve the practice of psychology. He also said that he had "retired from psychology". According to the Today Show, the California Board of Psychology determined in 2002 that he did not require a license because his show involves "entertainment" rather than psychology.[21] McGraw's license is currently listed by the Texas State Board of Psychology as "retired" and he holds no other active licenses to practice in any other state.

John Oliver is appalled- justifiably- because Mehmet Oz, as a medical doctor, should not promote scientifically unproven dietary substances as miraculous.  He points out (at 4:36) "But that's the point: you're presenting it as a doctor."  Worse, Dr. McGraw, whose only license is a driver's, promotes the art of psychology daily.  He may claim that his work does not involve psychology, but his program is not called "Mr. Phil" or "Shooting the Breeze with Dr. McGraw, Who Cannot Legally Practice Psychology."  He calls his show "entertainment," but he dare not drop the "Dr."  "Online scam," indeed.

So, John, when you go after the other questionable characters hawking pseudo-scientific cures on the small screen, I'll laud you as bold and brilliant, and concede that you're not a shill for the pharmaceutical industry. And by the way: ginseng (6:29) is an herb, not a vitamin.

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