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Friday, November 1, 2013

Johns Hopkins medical unit rarely finds black lung, helping coal industry defeat miners' claims

Today's post was shared by FairWarning and comes from

There is an unmistakable pattern in Wheeler’s readings. The Center identified more than 1,500 cases decided since 2000 in which Wheeler read at least one X-ray; in all, he interpreted more than 3,400 films during this time.

The numbers show his opinions consistently have benefited coal companies:
  • Wheeler rated at least one X-ray as positive in less than 4 percent of cases. Subtracting the cases in which he ultimately concluded another disease was more likely, this number drops to about 2 percent.
  • In 80 percent of the X-rays he read as positive, Wheeler saw only the earliest stage of the disease. He never once found advanced or complicated black lung. Other readers, looking at the same images, saw these severe forms of the disease on more than 750 films.
  • Where other doctors saw black lung, Wheeler saw tuberculosis, histoplasmosis or a similar disease on about 34 percent of X-rays. This number shoots up in cases in which others saw complicated black lung, which is so severe it triggers automatic compensation. In such cases, Wheeler attributed the masses in miners’ lungs to these other diseases on two-thirds of X-rays.
Asked if he stood by this record, Wheeler said, “Absolutely.”

“I have a perfect right to my opinion,” he added. “I found cases that have masses and nodules. … In my opinion, those masses and nodules were due to something more common.”
When his views are questioned, Wheeler often shares...
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