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Doctor may have misdiagnosed thousands of coal miners

In an important case that could have an impact on those involved with the Illinois coal mining industry, a deceased coal miner's autopsy results have called into question the diagnosis techniques of a leading Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions doctor. The autopsy of the miner, a 67-year-old West Virginia man, definitively showed that he died of black lung disease, a debilitating condition caused by the chronic inhalation of coal dust.

The report contradicted the findings of a Johns Hopkins doctor, who was known as an expert in black lung disease and was a frequent medical witness for coal companies who chose to fight black lung claims by their workers. The federal government guarantees benefits for workers diagnosed with black lung disease but requires a series of medical exams to approve a claim. The miner filed a benefits claim with the U.S. Department of Labor when his disability forced him to retire in 2004. A series of doctors examined him and concluded he suffered from severe black lung disease. In 2011, a judge denied the miner's benefits claim based on that doctor's opinion.

A review of the over 1,500 black lung cases that doctor evaluated since 2000 showed he did not find a single case of severe black lung disease during that time. Other physicians who reviewed the same cases reportedly identified 390 victims of the disease. In July, the Labor Department sent letters to more than 1,000 miners who were denied benefits due to testimony by the Johns Hopkins doctor, informing them they could reopen or refile their claims.

Anyone who believes they have experienced a delayed diagnosis or have been misdiagnosed may wish to meet with an attorney to explore their legal options for compensation. An attorney might also advise that their client seek a second medical opinion.

Source: Buzzfeed News, "Last Breath", Chris Hamby, October 08, 2014

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