Dr. Oz is running for Senate. The other doctors in the race have thoughts.


Dr. Kevin Baumlin, who is also running for Senate in Pennsylvania, said Oz's past comments on COVID-19 are 'offensive and borderline malpractice.'

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the cardiothoracic surgeon and talk show host, announced this week that he's officially running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania as a Republican. Oz joins a crowded race to fill the open seat currently held by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who is set to retire next year.

In the past, Oz promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, advocated for the reopening of schools in the midst of the pandemic, and downplayed the human cost of the virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 780,000 Americans.

In Oz's first campaign ad, he argues that Washington politicians got the coronavirus response "wrong" and claimed that they "took away our freedoms without making us safer." Running through his biography, Oz notes his television program "took on the medical establishment to argue against costly drugs and skyrocketing medical bills."

With unmatched name recognition and funding, Oz has quickly catapulted to the top of the GOP primary field. Republican candidate Sean Parnell, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, recently suspended his own campaign amid domestic abuse allegations that resulted in Parnell losing custody of his three children.

Oz, for his part, has a long history of using his platform to push unproven medical treatments and "miracle" weight loss products. A 2014 study in the British Medical Journal found that most of Oz's recommendations were not supported by medical evidence — and 15% of his recommendations were actually contradicted by scientific research.

Aside from Oz, there are two other doctors running for Senate in Pennsylvania: Dr. Val Arkoosh and Dr. Kevin Baumlin, who are both seeking the Democratic nomination.

Arkoosh, a physician with 23 years of experience who also serves as the chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, criticized Oz for his history of giving dubious medical advice.

In a statement, Arkoosh denounced Oz as a "TV personality who has peddled fake diet pills for-profit and pushed unproven COVID-19 treatments."

"Dr. Oz is the last thing we need when our Commonwealth faces real challenges," she added.

Early on in the pandemic, Oz was a vocal proponent of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug hyped by Trump to treat COVID despite safety concerns and no clinical evidence of efficacy at treating the disease. Facing criticism for his promotion of the treatment, Oz later backpedaled, admitting in a Fox News interview that "we don't know" if the drug really works.

Dr. Kevin Baumlin, former chair of the Pennsylvania Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine, is also running for the seat as a Democrat. He also called Oz's medical credentials into question.

"I find his behavior disgraceful because he is a physician leader," Baumlin told the American Independent Foundation in a phone interview. "When you have that sacred role, you shouldn't scorn it. You need to uphold your oath and take it seriously."

"I have cared for patients with COVID. I don't think Dr. Oz has," Baumlin added. "If he has, I don't think he'd be peddling hydroxychloroquine or other drugs that don't have a therapeutic impact on saving or promoting the healthy life of someone who's contracted COVID-19."

Oz came under fire last year for suggesting that schools should reopen in the middle of the pandemic. In a Fox News appearance, Oz cited an editorial in the Lancet medical journal to claim that reopening schools was an "appetizing opportunity" as data showed doing so "may only cost us 2-3% in terms of total mortality."

That "might be a tradeoff some folks would consider," Oz concluded.

He quickly walked back those comments in a Twitter video, saying he "misspoke" and acknowledging that his claims "confused and upset people."

After Oz announced his Senate campaign, three television stations in Philadelphia, New York City, and Cleveland pulled "The Dr. Oz Show," in accordance with federal equal-time rules that require broadcasters to offer the same amount of commercial air time to candidates seeking the same political office.

Oz's campaign did not respond to multiple inquiries about his past medical statements or his opponents' criticisms.

"If you've cared for patients who've died in front of you, literally while you're holding their hand ... I think you'd have a different perspective on unproven treatment protocols," Baumlin said. "I find it offensive and borderline malpractice."

Beyond the Pennsylvania race, a number of physician candidates are seeking elected office in 2022, touting their medical credentials as the pandemic remains high on the list of American voters' concerns.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.