As reported yesterday by ABC News, Senator Casey of Pennsylvania urged Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to release the results of its internal review regarding the integrity of its black lung x-ray reading program. A copy of Senator Casey’s letter is embedded below.
As ABC News reported on March 13th, John Hopkins says that it has completed its review but declined to share the results, responding “The review has always been intended as an internal evaluation and will remain confidential.“
Senator Casey criticizes this decision, writing “My constituents, coal miners and their families who have suffered the effects of black lung and the wrongful denial of black lung benefits claims are waiting for answers. In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I strongly urge you to publicly release the findings of your review.“
Senator Casey also raises questions about the future of John Hopkins black lung x-ray reading program: “Now that the review is complete, do you intend to restart your Black Lung x-ray reading program? If so, what safeguards will you put in place to ensure that those afflicted with black lung receive an accurate reading?“
In the March 13th story, Johns Hopkins said, “The [black lung x-ray] program remains suspended” and “Decisions coming out of the review are being deliberated.”
Johns Hopkins’s black lung x-ray reading program came under public criticism following an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News in the Breathless and Burdened series. One of the most shocking details in the report was the fact that out of 1,500 black lung cases, Dr. Paul Wheeler had not read a single x-ray as positive for the severe form of black lung known as “complicated coal workers’ pneumoconiosis,” despite current epidemiological data showing that 3.2% of Central Appalachian career miners have complicated CWP. Dr. Wheeler also criticized the standard films that are used as points of comparison. Following this reporting—which won a Pulitzer Prize—Johns Hopkins suspended its program and the Department of Labor issued a bulletin presuming Dr. Wheeler not to be credible.
It will be interesting to see how Johns Hopkins responds and, if necessary, whether Senator Casey will use his broad subpoena powers to force Johns Hopkins to turn over the results of the review.