Steve Day's autopsy showed severe black lung. This proved a top doctor wrong & now the program he leads is suspended. http://t.co/eHgxfu3X7d
— ProPublica (@ProPublica) October 9, 2014
From Chris Hanby’s Buzzfeed article:
After working underground in the coal mines of southern West Virginia for almost 35 years, Steve Day thought it was obvious why he gasped for air, slept upright in a recliner, and inhaled oxygen from a tank 24 hours a day.
More than half a dozen doctors who saw the masses in his lungs or the test results showing his severely impaired breathing were also in agreement.
The clear diagnosis was black lung.
Yet, when I met Steve in April 2013, he had lost his case to receive benefits guaranteed by federal law to any coal miner disabled by black lung. The coal company that employed the miner usually pays for these benefits, and, as almost always happens, Steve’s longtime employer had fought vigorously to avoid paying him. As a result, he and his family were barely scraping by, sometimes resorting to loans from relatives or neighbors to make it through the month.
Like many other miners, he had lost primarily because of the opinions of a unit of doctors at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions that had long been the go-to place for coal companies seeking negative X-ray readings to help defeat a benefits claim. The longtime leader of the unit, Dr. Paul Wheeler, testified against Steve, and the judge determined that his opinion trumped all others, as judges have in many other cases.
Today, however, there is final and overwhelming evidence that Wheeler was wrong: Steve’s autopsy.
On July 26, what was left of Steve’s lungs gave out. He was 67 years old. The doctor who performed the autopsy found extensive black lung. With the permission of Steve’s family, I shared his autopsy report with three leading doctors who specialize in black lung and related diseases. Each said essentially the same thing: Steve had one of the most severe cases of black lung they had seen…
Reached by phone, Wheeler said, “I’d love to talk to you, but the hospital has asked that everything be referred to the legal team.”
A Johns Hopkins spokesperson would not comment on Steve’s case, but noted that the black lung X-ray-reading program headed by Wheeler has been suspended, pending an internal review. The spokesperson refused to provide details about the review, saying only that it “is proceeding as rapidly as possible, and I can assure you that Johns Hopkins takes it very seriously.”…