Doctors hired by coal companies in black lung cases are far less likely to diagnose the disease in X-rays than are independent doctors or those who are hired by coal miners, a new study has concluded, pointing to conflicts of interest in the system that sick miners use to receive assistance.
The doctors who worked for coal companies to read the chest X-rays of miners found an absence of the disease nearly 85% of the time, according to the authors of the study, published Friday by the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health’s Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. In contrast, the doctors whose clients were coal miners found an absence of black lung a little more than 51% of the time.
“The more frequently a physician is hired by the employer/mine-operator to provide a medical opinion related to workers compensation cases for black lung disease, the more likely that physician will not identify black lung disease on a chest X-ray,” the study concluded. “The opposite is true too.”