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.
Cindy Skrzycki reports in The Washington Post on the effects of a Bush administration rule classifying nursing home-related state inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors as federal employees, thus shielding them from providing evidence from either side in court cases. “The practical effect is to force litigants to go to greater lengths, including seeking court orders, to get inspection reports or depositions for cases they are pursuing or defending,” Skrzycki said.
The change, which affects the $144 billion nursing-home industry, was enacted with no public notice or attention.
“This is pretty stunning,” said Mark Kosieradzki, a plaintiff attorney in Plymouth, Minn. “Nobody was told. It was just done.”
Skrzycki reports that the effect of the rule change is being felt across the country, as once-routine information requests have now stalled.
“This change hurts nursing-home residents and their families by allowing bad practices to be kept in secret by nursing homes and inspectors,” said Eric M. Carlson, an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Los Angeles. “Government inspectors have the right to go into nursing homes and investigate, and they learn things that residents and families otherwise could never find out.”
The new rule, which was issued in September, generally prohibits state health departments and contractors from participating in private lawsuits involving facilities that are in the federal assistance program without approval by the head of the Department of Health and Human Services.