Breathless and Burdened

Hopkins Halts Program After Investigation Finds Docs Denied Disability Benefits For Miners With Black Lung

November 5, 2013

World-renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine forced to suspend program after investigation finds one doctor reviewed 1,500 cases and never found an instance of black lung, denying coal miners disability benefits Johns Hopkins Medicine suspended its black lung program after an investigation revealed that Hopkins doctors made questionable medical assessments resulting in denied disability benefits for thousands of coal miners. The findings were part of a year-long investigation titled "Breathless and Burdened: Dying from Black Lung, Buried by Law and Medicine," a joint project by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News. The benefit system for miners disabled by black lung “plays out to be a war of competing experts a lot of times,” says Chris Hamby of the Center.  “So the miner will have whatever expert he or she can get. Most of the time this is—they'll submit their treatment records and they'll submit records from an examination by a doctor who is certified by the Labor Department.” “Now, the coal companies also get to choose their doctors, and they send out x-rays that are taken for reinterpretations. And one of the favorite places for about 40 years before it for the coal companies to send those x-rays is Johns Hopkins,” says Hamby. Judges tend to favor the interpretations of medical records by Hopkins doctors due to the prestige of the Hopkins institution, says Hamby. Johns Hopkins received millions of dollars from the coal industry for these studies, but there is no indication doctors personally benefited. One doctor at the center of the investigation is…

Breathless and Burdened: Appalachia Coal Miners Face Industry’s Efforts to Defeat Benefits Claims

November 5, 2013

Investigative journalist Chris Hamby on coal miners quest for justice buried by law, medicine, and industry