Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Concerns Over Biased Experts in Asbestos Lawsuits


Expert-witness physicians who specialize in interpreting chest x-rays for plaintiffs in lawsuits claiming asbestos-related injury greatly overstate their findings, compared with independent readers interpreting the same films without knowing their source, reports the August issue of Academic Radiology, published by Elsevier on behalf of the Association of University Radiologists.

In a study of 492 chest x-rays obtained by plaintiffs’ lawyers and entered as evidence in lawsuits against former employers, the original interpreters claimed to find evidence of possible asbestos-related lung damage in 95.9 percent of cases. In contrast, when the same x-rays were re-read by six unbiased physicians, the abnormality rate was only 4.5 percent.*

An accompanying editorial remarked on the study’s possible impact on thousands of pending claims for billions of dollars against hundreds of companies.† More than 60 U.S. companies have taken voluntary bankruptcy to protect their assets against asbestos-related lawsuits.

The study was performed by Drs. Joseph N. Gitlin and Elizabeth Garrett-Mayer of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, together with Leroy L. Cook and Otha W. Linton. The editorial was written by Dr. Murray Janower of Wellesley, Mass., past chairman of the American College of Radiology Committee on Ethics, and Dr. Leonard Berlin of Skokie, Ill., author of a leading book on radiology and the law. Dr. Gitlin and Mr. Linton will discuss their findings in a telephone press conference on Wednesday, August 4, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

"The magnitude of the differences between the interpretations by initial [plaintiffs’] readers and the six consultants is too great to be attributed to interobserver error," the study authors asserted. "There is no support in the world literature on x-ray studies of workers exposed to asbestos and other mineral dusts for the high level of positive findings recorded by the initial readers in this report."

Federal programs providing for workmen’s compensation for coal miners and asbestos workers require medical evidence of changes in the lungs that can be attributed to occupational dust exposures. Chest x-rays, which can be interpreted by more than one reader, are considered the most objective type of evidence. Physicians interpreting occupational chest x-rays are required to follow the International Labor Office (ILO) classification system, which uses a 12-point scale to describe the presence and extent of dust in the lungs. Small bright spots (opacities) on x-rays may represent scars in the lung from asbestos, coal, silica, or other mineral dusts.

A separate federal program, administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, provides a test for physicians to qualify as expert readers, termed "B-readers." In the new study, both the plaintiffs’ experts and the independent panel were qualified B-readers.

The ILO system allows readers to state that a film is completely free of any adverse changes. The plaintiffs’ readers asserted that every one of the 492 films showed some harmful change. In contrast, the review panelists said that only 37.9 percent were completely free of adverse changes.

"There is less than one chance in 10,000 that the difference noted between the two groups of readers is due to chance alone," the study authors asserted. The authors of the editorial pointed out that many past studies have reported interobserver disagreements, some as high as 30 percent. "However, the fact is that none of these previously published studies have shown variations to the same extent " as the new study.

The study "raises considerable concern as to whether interpretations of chest radiographs rendered by B-reader radiologists acting as expert witnesses and offered as testimony in asbestos-related litigation is non-partisan and clinically accurate," wrote Drs. Janower and Berlin. "The article contains data that is as disquieting as it is startling."

*Gitlin JN, Cook LL, Linton OW, Garrett-Mayer E. Comparison of “B” readers’ interpretations of chest radiographs for asbestos related changes. Academic Radiology 2004;11:843-856.

†Janower ML, Berlin L. “B” Readers’ Radiographic Interpretation in Asbestos Litigation: Is Something Rotten in the Courtroom? Academic Radiology 2004;11:841-842.

| newswise
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

nachricht Breakthrough in Mapping Nicotine Addiction Could Help Researchers Improve Treatment
04.10.2016 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Second research flight into zero gravity

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

How Does Friendly Fire Happen in the Pancreas?

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>