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Doctor denies coal miner's black lung, autopsy finds the disease

New Mexico residents who think they received a wrong diagnosis or delayed medical treatment may want to follow the story unfolding after a West Virginia coal miner's autopsy revealed black lung. This man and others were denied workers' compensation benefits when medical professionals at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions told courts that black lung was not present in X-rays.

The autopsy was performed when a 67-year-old man who worked in coal mines for almost 35 years died, and the autopsy report said there was extensive black lung. The impaired breathing and masses of dead tissue in his lungs found by X-rays and CT scans all indicated that the man had black lung, but a professional who looked for black lung in X-rays for at least 40 years testified that the man's X-rays did not show such a diagnosis.

While the doctor from Johns Hopkins and another authority in the field agreed about many characteristics found in the man's scans, the first physician reportedly suspected fungal infection or tuberculosis. Since 2000, miners have lost more than 800 cases where physicians have denied black lung, only to have the disease later noted on X-rays. More than 1,000 miners can now reopen or file new claims after receiving a negative reading from Johns Hopkins physicians.

A delayed diagnosis can result in a worsened condition, and a patient's prognosis may worsen due to delayed treatment. While an autopsy reported that the man in this case had black lung, he was not able to receive benefits for medical care and living expenses because of an incorrect diagnosis. If a physician's negligent actions caused a patient harm, a victim may be entitled to compensation.

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

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