Oprah absolves herself of responsibility for dubious advice

Blogging on open.salon.com, Dr. Rahul Parikh recounts Oprah Winfrey’s recent defense of her medical advice (delivered to Entertainment Tonight) and challenges her attempt to dodge the responsibility for her messages and to instead put the onus on viewers to independently evaluate her recommendations.

First, Oprah’s statement:

“For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors’ medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers. I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.”

Parikh takes issue with her stance, arguing that at this point it’s willfully ignorant of Oprah to deny the power she holds over her massive national audience. In support of this allegation, Parikh cites numerous examples of the “Oprah Effect” driving sales of books, products and health care and accuses the talk show host of putting ratings, profits and entertainment value above the health of her audience. Oprah’s defense is more of a dismissive cop-out than a rebuttal of charges brought by Newsweek Parikh and others, and Parikh feels that, absent some dramatic life-changing event, real change in Winfrey’s presentation of health advice is unlikely.

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