Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Follow the gold brick road

I believe I have linked before to Julia Belluz, who has been doggedly on the trail of Dr. Oz. In the latest installment, medical students have persuaded the AMA to promulgate ethical standards for physicians communicating through mass media.

However, I caution everyone to get a grip. This has generated considerable excitement in the anti-quackosphere, but we don't actually know yet what those standards will be. What's more, we don't know if they will make any difference. The AMA has no regulatory authority. Only the state licensing board can defrock Dr. Oz, and only Columbia can expel him from its faculty. No doubt they will both have various weaselly reasons why they can't do that.

In the first case, they'll say that they only regulate actual medical practice, and lying to 4 million people to the possible detriment of their health and bank accounts doesn't come under their jurisdiction. In the latter case, they have already said "academic freedom yadda yadda yadda."

Well, this is really a legal issue. The first amendment doesn't permit you to falsely yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, nor does it condone fraud, i.e. lying for money. I continue to be baffled by the failure of prosecutors to go after quacks who are in fact con artists. Quackery is fraud, which is a crime. Let's start treating it as such.

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