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Dr. Oz Is Largely Bulletproof When It Comes To Malpractice

Posted by Andrew J. Barovick | May 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

Dr. Mehmet Oz is a New York-based surgeon and television personality.  He brings the complexities of medicine to the people, on shows like “Oprah,” where he tends to preach about products and processes that are modern and “natural.”  He is unconstrained by the boundaries of traditional medicine. Some would say he is unmoored from them.  As long as his adoring viewing public views him as an entertainer with a medical degree, no one gets hurt.  Unfortunately, some viewers have taken him, and his advice, literally, much to their sorrow.

One of the better-known debacles sprung from the weight-loss wonders Dr. Oz assured his public could be found in green coffee beans. It was exciting news, and would result in the loss of 16% of one's body fat, whether the user exercised or not.   Except the claims were based on poor and unsubstantiated research, forcing Dr. Oz to ultimately acknowledge that more research needed to be performed. Pushing this untested, new-age snake oil likely resulted in nothing more harmful than dashed expectation and some wasted cash.

But then things heated up a bit, after Dr. Oz told his viewers that heating rice-filled socks in the microwave oven and placing them on your feet before bed would help them sleep.  One viewer, Frank Dietl, followed the suggestion, and wound up with third-degree burns on his feet, as is detailed in the article. The victim sued Dr. Oz over his injuries.

The victim lost. If fact, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Dr. Oz “won.”   Any New York medical malpractice lawyer could have predicted that for Mr. Dietl, before he and his attorney filed their lawsuit. Why? Because there can be no medical malpractice without there first being a doctor-patient relationship. Without that, the physician owes no duty of care to someone who decides to give that physician's advice a whirl. For those of you so inclined, this case provides all the explanation you'll ever need.  Suffice it to say that Dr. Oz, and one of his many fans out in TV land, never had a doctor-patient relationship.  And no other television viewer silly enough to take Dr. Oz's medical advice seriously will be able to sue him for medical malpractice, either, for the same reason.

If you would like to establish a doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Oz, you will have to go see him in his office, sign all the required paperwork, speak to him face-to-face about your particular problems, allow him to examine you….well, you get the picture.  Of course, maybe you don't want to establish that kind of relationship with a doctor who appears to be focused more on television and pushing boundaries, then on carefully treating his patients. But I'll leave that up to you.

About the Author

Andrew J. Barovick

Mr. Barovick is a graduate of Columbia College and Cardozo School of Law. He began his legal career at the Queens District Attorney’s Office, where he tried over 20 felonies to verdict, and argued an equal number of appeals before the Appellate Division, Second Department, the New York Court of Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.


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