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Dr. Oz Used ‘Ex-Gay Therapy’ To Spike Ratings — His Own Blog Proves It

by David Badash on November 29, 2012

in Discrimination,News

Post image for Dr. Oz Used ‘Ex-Gay Therapy’ To Spike Ratings — His Own Blog Proves It

Dr. Oz – the TV doctor whose show is produced by Oprah Winfrey’s HARPO Productions company — apparently is not above using a known and medically-denounced practice to gin up controversy — and ratings. Oz may be against so-called “ex-gay therapy,” aka, “pray-away-the-gay,” but he had no moral compunction against using it to drive up ratings yesterday.

For the record, “ex-gay therapy,” which claims to be able to “cure” people of homosexuality, is dangerous, harmful, fraudulent, and has been denounced by practically every reputable major medical organization.

Oz even used his show yesterday to host a representative from NARTH, a discredited “ex-gay” organization.

The folks at GLAAD tell the story well:

One day after the airing of a show in which Dr. Oz discussed “both sides” of a debunked and dangerous practice, often called “reparative therapy”, he has now written a blog post distancing himself from the practice.

In a joint statement issued following the show, GLAAD, PFLAG, and GLSEN roundly condemned the show’s placement of so-called “reparative therapy” practitioners alongside doctors and people who have been harmed by their experience in such programs.

In his blog, Dr. Oz has taken a less neutral position, pointing out that  the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and other respected medical organizations completely oppose such programs. He continues to maintain that conversations about such practices need to be had, but finally weighs in with his own position.

His position?

On today’s controversial show, we discussed forms of therapy that are designed to turn a gay person straight. Currently, there are still a handful of therapists who still perform this on teenagers and adults who are uncomfortable with their sexual orientation – despite the fact that the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and other respected medical organizations oppose this therapy, claiming that it doesn’t work and that it may be potentially harmful.

I felt that we needed to include all parties who have considered reparative therapy to hear the stories of people who have tried these treatments.  Although some viewers may disagree with this tactic, if we want to reach everyone who might benefit from understanding the risks of this therapy, you have to present multiple perspectives.

It’s good to know that Dr.Oz considers his approach a “tactic,” but, “you have to present multiple perspectives,” is false.

Dr. Oz bills himself as a cardiac surgeon and “Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University.” Would he present a shaman, a witchdoctor, a faith healer among the “multiple perspectives” he’d present to a patient whom he knows needs a heart transplant or surgery?

Oz continues:

Some guests argued that they have been changed through these treatments, but I was overwhelmed by the pain of individuals hurt by the experience.  After listening to both sides of the issue and after reviewing the available medical data, I agree with the established medical consensus.  I have not found enough published data supporting positive results with gay reparative therapy, and I have concerns about the potentially dangerous effects when the therapy fails, especially when minors are forced into treatments.

Meanwhile, GLAAD offers this excellent bit of detective work:

Even with this statement, it seems as though Dr. Oz is attempting to be more neutral than he really is. The time stamp for his blog is 11/28/2012 at 8:47 AM, well before the program aired. Additionally, if you look at the URL, you can see that the blog post was originally titled something like, “The gay cure: shame masquerading as medicine.” That is certainly quite different than the more innocuous sounding “The Reparative Therapy Controversy,” which still implies that this is an ongoing debate, which it is not.

GLAAD sums up their report with this important statement:

It is a positive step that Dr. Oz has finally publicly stated that he is not neutral on such a dangerous practice. However, issuing a blog statement does not negate the fact that millions of people watched his program and potentially walked away hoping to find a way to hide or repress a part of themselves, or worse, their children. As a new lawsuit against JONAH, a Jewish “ex-gay” program is demonstrating, anyone who felt for the promises of change from Dr. Oz’s guests may be at best disappointed, and at worst severely damaged. The media must handle this topic responsibly, or risk spreading dangerous, unchallenged misinformation to audiences.

Even though GLAAD is too generous to state it, I’m not.

This thoroughly indicts Dr. Oz as nothing more than a Jerry Springer wannabe, and who pays for it? Vulnerable people brainwashed by religious fanatics.

Shame on Dr. Oz — whose Hippocratic oath seems to me to be a little flexible — and HARPO for using people in pain to attract ratings.

We’ll do our best to get video of this when it becomes available.

For now, while I’m loath to send him traffic, you can see clips from the show at Dr. Oz’s website, where GLAAD and GLSEN did a great job refuting the notions of “ex-gay therapy.”

Shame on Dr. Oz.

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{ 4 comments }

AkephalonMuse November 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm

He isn't endorsing or giving it credit. He spotlights things that have made it into the public consciousness and regularly disagrees with quite a few things. No one worth the paper their degree is printed on thinks reparative therapy works.

Rsyk November 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Wait a minute. You mean he spotlighted a practice he deemed harmful and unfair to gain profit from people viewing his show on the subject? Well that's just awful.
It sounds like every show and journalistic publication in existence.

Just because he decided to use the "unbiased third party" perspective doesn't make him any different than anyone else who speaks on these subjects from a platform that gains them profit by people viewing it. The only reason you're spotlighting him at all is because he presented the argument that the opposing side might have some sort of substance, even if he later said that he doesn't believe it himself.
And you know what? He's probably done more good with that show than any publication that simply denigrated ex-gay therapy will ever do. Because by giving them the benefit of the doubt, even if only to make them tune in, he at least got them to listen. How many people who believe that ex-gay therapy works do you think the NCRM has won over by calling them vulnerable people brain-washed by religious fanatics?
The only thing he did wrong was let what he actually felt slip before hand, which will make it easier for proponents of ex-gay theory to discredit him as a biased source later. Which this site will help by making the references readily available.

Bose_in_SP_MN November 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

As much as I wish the Oz show hadn't spent an hour handling the issue so badly, I'm glad the videos are accessible.

It infuriates me that a physician would go at this with so little concern for the credible evidence. It was a gross imbalance to putting ex-gays up first who are also purported experts and leaders, but then match them with two gay men not pretending to be experts, whose leading qualifications for being on the show were being suicidal. (And, of course it was obscene to have a staffer from Richard Cohen's IHF there as an expert without noting IHF's history).

The show gave NARTH an easy path to misrepresent itself, as well. Instead of Clay Aiken and Brad Lamm, they needed former patients who Dr. Nicolosi treated as adolescents. No matter how outraged and heartfelt, neither Aiken or Lamm is a mental health expert. A former Nicolosi client could have brought objective experience to the conversation: Nicolosi told me X, Y and Z; he instructed me to A, B and C.

Most egregiously, in my mind, Dr. Oz missed the opportunity to put bullet-point summaries of reparative therapy vs. competent mental health care provided to teens side-by-side. We're doing an inadequate job of helping people understand how competent therapists work with teens related to sexual orientation. Therapists are not telling teens that they must come out and identify as gay, they're not telling kids to abandon their faith or their parents, they're not encouraging sexual activity.

After I came out in my 30s, my therapist (whose practice was 30-40% orientation-related) was adamant that being attracted to guys did not dictate anything about how I chose to identify or whether I needed to end my marriage. With teens, a competent therapist will do some of the same stuff that NARTH therapists will as far as ferreting out whether family relationships or past abuse need to be addressed, and they will counsel that attractions can be somewhat fluid in adolescence, and that some straight, married adults have been intimate with same-sex partners when younger. Contrary to NARTH therapists, competent therapists will also point out rational concepts — the differences between gender expression and orientation (gay men can be hyper-masculine, straight men effeminate), that healthy non-sexual friendships with both men and women are equally good to straight and non-straight people, that LGBT people can be deeply spiritual whether celibate or not, that mixed-orientation marriage can work for some, but are more often difficult and unsustainable.

NARTH too often gets away with the lie that teens receiving mainstream therapy related to their orientation are congratulated and told they must come out. I'm frustrated with the sense that we're not countering that BS effectively enough yet. Credible mental health care always has, and will continue to, include sensitivity to clients' beliefs.

Ned_Flaherty November 30, 2012 at 3:42 am

Reparative therapy is never necessary.
It is never effective.
It is usually harmful.
It sometimes ends in suicide.

No accredited medical school teaches reparative therapy.
No mainstream professional organization certifies reparative therapists.
No reparative therapist is licensed to do such work.
No government rules regulate this profession.
No government agency supervises these treatments.
No reparative therapist carries insurance (because no underwriter will sell it to them).
No health insurance policy covers this treatment (because there is no illness).
The weekly cost is high, and often continues for years or decades.
The outcome is never guaranteed, and the results are often harmful.
There is no scientific evidence that reparative therapy ever worked for anyone.
Reparative therapists can be sued for consumer fraud and medical malpractice.

Reparative therapists turn tail and run the moment you ask them for a written, dated, signed summary of reparative therapy’s success rates, suicides, and lawsuits over the last 10 years.

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