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Dr. Oz insomnia remedy results in third-degree burns, viewer says

March 21, 2013|By Karen Kaplan
  • A viewer of "The Dr. Oz Show" files suit after trying a "heated rice footsie" remedy for insomnia.
A viewer of "The Dr. Oz Show" files suit after trying a "heated… (Harpo Inc. )

For those who need further evidence that you can’t believe everything you see on TV, along comes the tale of a New Jersey man who says he sustained third-degree burns on his feet after following an insomnia remedy touted by Dr. Mehmet Oz on his daytime talk show.

The remedy was a “heated rice footsie,” which the show’s website describes like this: “Simply pour rice into your socks, heat them in the microwave until they’re warm, then wear the socks for up to 20 minutes while lying in bed.”

What good would that do, you ask? Dr. Oz is ready with an answer:

“To a get a good night’s sleep, your core body temperature must drop slightly in order to enter a restful sleep phase,” according to the show’s website. “The heated rice footsie diverts blood to your feet due to the heat, which in turn cools your core, allowing you to get your Zzzs all through the night.”

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Among the many people who watched Dr. Oz promote this remedy during his April 17 episode was 76-year-old Frank Dietl of Southampton, N.J. According to a report this week from the New York Daily News, Dietl gave it a try and “wound up with third-degree burns on his feet,” his attorney, Dominick Gullo, told the newspaper. Dietl “was confined to his bed for weeks,” Gullo added.

Dietl filed suit against the show in Manhattan Supreme Court, the Daily News reports. The suit says that Dietl suffers from diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that results from poor circulation and high blood sugar. Presumably, the nerve damage prevented him from being able to tell that the grains of rice were burning his feet until it was too late.

“There were no warnings to anybody with neuropathy not to try it,” Gullo told the Daily News.

A spokesman for the company that produces "The Dr. Oz Show," Harpo Productions, told the newspaper that “we stand by the content in our program as safe and educational for our viewers.” He declined to comment on the specifics of Dietl’s suit.

Over at FindLaw’s Celebrity Justice blog, Andrew Lu offered this analysis:

“Whether Dr. Oz may be liable may depend upon whether he even owes a duty of care to viewers like Dietl in the first place. While doctors clearly owe a duty of reasonable care to their patients, Dr. Oz is more a TV personality than Dietl's personal physician. Without a relationship between the two, Dr. Oz may be able to avoid liability completely.

"Then again, because Dr. Oz promotes himself and his expertise, an argument could be made that he owes a duty of care to all his viewers.”

It seems the court will have to decide.

Incidentally, the website for "The Dr. Oz Show" features a video titled “Lisa Oz’s Guide to Family Health: Dr. Oz’s wife Lisa reveals the tips and tricks she uses to keep her family healthy and happy.” As this excellent profile of Dr. Oz in the New Yorker notes, Lisa Oz “has repeatedly expressed reservations about the value of some vaccinations,” including the one released in 2009 to protect the public from the dangerous H1N1 swine flu. As a result, the couple’s children did not get the shot – a position Mehmet Oz disagreed with but went along with anyway because “when I go home I’m not Dr. Oz, I’m Mr. Oz,” he told the magazine.

You can read the New Yorker profile here.

Dr. Oz’s forays away from evidence-based medicine are also summed up in this Los Angeles Times story headlined “Dr. Oz at times wanders off the mainstream medical path.”

Return to the Booster Shots blog.

Follow me on Twitter @LATkarenkaplan

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