Should the Public Hold Physicians to a Higher Standard?

Should the Public Hold Physicians to a Higher Standard?

Dr. Oz has defended his right to present what he has to say to the general public. Broadcast in 118 countries and to more than 3 million viewers, he defends his right to tell the audience about the products featured on his show.

His response to criticism is that he does not sell or endorse any products, but others have some quotes that at least he supports some that seem to lack any scientific evidence of efficacy. I’m not here to accuse or pick on him, but where does our individual freedom of speech end as physicians?

Many contracts now have clauses indicating that your behavior on social media may be cause for termination or other action if it reflects badly on your employer or yourself. I think we all know now that we should not put anything on social media that is even potentially embarrassing, but what about supporting something that is borderline or frankly unscientific?

“If it bleeds, it leads,” is the oft quoted line for news folks. When we speak to the public, should we hold ourselves to a higher standard than regular folks because we are physicians, and therefore perceived as experts in health care?

How do we avoid making something spectacular, when the reality is much harder? A story that says, “Dr. Geraci, a physician, says….” carries much more weight than “Mr. Geraci.”

Where does the line between outright fraud (like the now discredited studies linking autism and vaccines) and “just exaggerating a bit” to make the evening news lie?

Should we, as physicians, be held to a higher standard for public (or even private) behavior because we are physicians? And if yes, what should the punishment be?

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