SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korean TV doctors are facing criticism for spreading unfounded and misleading medical information to boost ratings, with one doctor even heard saying ‘doing a handstand can help grow hair’ on national television.
The latest accusations against so-called ‘show doctors’, which refer to TV doctors who make appearances on health-themed shows to share controversial medical tips and information, come amid growing criticism of an increasing number of medical and health TV programs in South Korea that give a platform to those in the medical field with questionable opinions.
With an increasing number of cable networks resorting to medical programs to target demographics with a keen interest in health such as middle-aged female viewers and mothers, the medical industry is also speaking up against the spread of misleading information being shared by TV doctors, with the Korean Medical Association releasing guidelines in 2015 targeting show doctors.
Opponents of the plethora of questionable medical information on South Korean TV have mounting evidence that medical TV shows are misleading viewers with outrageous claims for products which are often depicted as home remedies and folk medicine with warning signs in small letters that their use isn’t necessarily supported by scientific evidence.
Some of the best examples include one doctor saying ‘doing a handstand can be helpful when growing hair’, while another doctor argued that hypnolepsy is an easy to cure illness and patients can recover from it within a month.
One doctor argued that common medical conditions like dark circles and pimples are signs of another disease, which many found to be misleading.
Another doctor was slammed after recommending an intervertebral foramen expansion surgery and saying the surgery is the only way to improve narrowing intervertebral foramen, blood flow and autonomic nerves.
Despite the controversy, show doctors continue to appear on numerous TV programs, with some televising information about their hospitals in what amounts to blatant promotion.
As the influence of show doctors is reflected in search engine rankings, affecting sales of health products, some in the medical sector are expressing concerns while calling on the government to introduce stricter regulations to hold doctors on TV shows more accountable.
In 2015, the Korean Medical Association released guidelines outlining in detail what doctors should be required to do when making TV appearances, asking them to present accurate and objective medical knowledge, and stipulating that TV programs shouldn’t be used as a platform to promote doctors themselves or certain medical institutes, as well as health products.
Though the group released additional guidelines earlier this year in protest against the increasing influence of show doctors, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has been lax in tackling the issue.
Since September 2015, when the law regulating show doctors was first introduced, no doctor has been prosecuted, an absence of oversight that emboldened show doctors and left many continuing to make TV appearances.
Following the shocking revelation that no doctor has been punished under the anti-show doctor law over the last two years, despite 52 TV programs being reported by the Korea Communications Standards Commission, senior lawmaker Kim Myeong-yeon from the Liberty Korea Party, who is also a member of the Health and Welfare Committee, called for stricter punishments to tackle the issue of the spread of false medical information head on earlier this month.
“Inaccurate medical information can lead to side effects and excessive medical care, putting people’s lives in danger. It’s delinquency of duty on the part of the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
“Data from the Korea Communications Standards Commission shows some doctors are purposefully spreading false and exaggerated information to promote their hospital. The health ministry need to start punishing so-called show doctors,” Kim said.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)