Millions of people watch television daily, and daytime talk shows are especially popular. Some of these are even hosted by medical doctors and have large followings. Viewers at home hear someone they admire say that they did something medically, and they think that it could apply to them as well. Many viewers will not take the time to do further research, and will just blindly follow the talk show host's medical advice. The host should have to provide proven medical advice or, at a minimum, warn about the advice and be held accountable for what they say.
It is sad that television show hosts feel that they need to sensationalize their topics in order to get the necessary ratings. In doing this, they oftentimes skew their topics in order to create the effect they desire. This includes topics on medical issues. Oftentimes, this creates a problem, and it would only be fair if they were held accountable for what they show.
Talk show hosts need to take responsibility for the content of their shows. When they welcome a so-called medical expert, they usually present that person as an authority, and as someone who can be trusted implicitly. The public is led to believe that the host and crew have carefully selected these experts and checked their credentials. Even more so, when the host is someone like Oprah, whose opinion people tend to accept without any doubt.
When dispensing medical information, it is essential for television hosts to check their facts first before doling out potentially harmful advice. These shows have access to staff that are perfectly capable of gathering necessary information on any subject before presenting it on the air to millions of people, some of whom are gullible and easily misled.
Medical advice should only be dispensed by those who possess the proper qualifications, but even if the television host happens to have credentials, someone with a medical problem should go to the doctor rather than get their advice from television. Not everyone's body is the same, and things like allergies could drastically affect their treatment.
If a talk show host gives incorrect medical advice, there is a chance that people will believe it to be true and act accordingly. Of course it should be the responsibility of a person to confirm what they hear on television with a physician, but not everyone is going to do that, so talk show hosts should always make sure any medical advice that they are giving is accurate.
Television is not an appropriate format for providing medical advice, however, if it is used, then the host and all those associated with the show should be held accountable for its content, and any potential related actions as a result of those who use the show (and its advice) as a basis when making medical related decisions.
While I do think that a talk show host has an ethical and professional obligation to present credible information, because they do not have medical licenses and have not taken the Hippocratic Oath, they are not subject to legal ramifications for medical advice the way doctors are.
Since television hosts are not presuming to know anything about specific members of their audience, I do not think that they should be held legally accountable for general information or advice that they give on their shows.
America is a free country and, as such, we have many quacks that operate under the guise of science. To truly be a free country, we must allow these fakes and phonies their chance, while we learn to see through their faulty lessons. I believe that it is morally wrong to knowingly lead people astray. However, morality and legality are two different things, and the Constitution does not ban things just because they are immoral.
People often get so worked up for little things. Anyone who wants medical advice should ask their doctor first. If they do not do this, their actions are their own responsibility. It is rather ridiculous to try and blame somebody else for their mistakes. I do believe, that anyone on the news should be accountable for what they report. In the end though, people are primarily responsible for their actions, NOT T.V. hosts.
Even though it is inappropriate to give bad advice on television shows, the right to free speech in the United States is close to absolute. The problem with starting down the road of prosecuting or punishing bad advice is that it would be hard to justify who exactly had the bad advice. There is a high degree of differing opinion when it comes to health and medicine, and therefore it would be very difficult to determine who was wrong and who could be validated as correct.
It's clear that the medical advice TV show personalities give can be harmful, especially when its misinformed irrationality about vaccines, germ theory, or some other life and death topic. While something clearly needs to be done to curtail this behavior, I think legislation would be wrong for three reasons: first, social structures already exist to punish fraudulent TV show hosts (namely, people stop watching the show). But second, I believe it is too difficult to differentiate between criminal negligence and honest advice, and any attempt to do so would wind up restricting free speech. Finally, I believe the responsibility whether or not to take the advice of a tv show host falls ultimately on the viewer, as it does with all advice.
An educated consumer is a smart consumer. When a patient seeks medical advice, they go to an expert with their specific questions and circumstances. The doctors on television cannot possibly cover all different circumstances that people have. It can help provide a place to start, but in no way should televised medical advice replace traditional medical care.
Anyone watching talk shows for medical advice are told right up front that it is not to be taken as absolute. There are ample statements made to that affect throughout these shows. If people watch for a little bit of advice, then they know that this is the case. It is plainly stated. People are told to consult their physician, that the opinions expressed are merely that-opinions. Any medical advice is just for a general, overall audience, not specific to individuals.
Although talk shows can be very educating, the hosts are not medical doctors and should not be held legally liable for the topics discussed on their shows. As with any medical discussion, it should be noted that it is no substitute for a real medical doctor. A person should always be lead into making an appointment with their medical doctor when they are not sure what to do.