Super-radiologists before Congress:

…"I take the Fifth" now joins "recommend clinical correllation" in the radiology lexicon…

The rant-muse has abandoned me, hopefully temporarily.

However, I read this in today’s WSJ (subscription required):


The silicosis lawsuit scandal rolled into Congress last week, and it was quite the spectacle. The highlight was the sight of three doctors raising their right hands to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and then taking nothing but the Fifth Amendment.

Ray Harron, Andrew Harron and James Ballard were three of the dozen doctors singled out last summer by federal Judge Janis Graham Jack for supporting 10,000 phony silicosis claims that she said had been "manufactured for money." Her opinion piqued the interest of House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, who invited the doctors to testify as part of a probe into public health and legal fraud.

The doctors declined to appear voluntarily, so they were subpoenaed. They still haven’t provided documents to the committee, and in the hearing last week all three were lawyered up and hunkered down. You can decide what this says about their honesty, or their potential vulnerability before the federal grand jury now probing sham diagnoses.

The dumbstruck docs were a lot more energetic when it came to their assembly-line diagnosis of both asbestosis and silicosis, a disease caused by exposure to silica particles found in construction materials. For their effort, they were paid millions of dollars by X-ray screening companies hired by plaintiff lawyers. The Manville Trust — one of the largest asbestos funds — recently disclosed new statistics about the doctors who have sent the most such business its way.


Innocent until proven guilty, remember that.

And now some disconnected thoughts: when the system of setting up a very select few radiologists to be asbestos screeners was set up, was there no oversight provision? Talk about a potentially abusable situation! Send 2% of the films to another screener, blinded, and look for discordances. In retrospect, I’m sure nobody thought it would be necessary. I suspect they were wrong.

Why is ‘assembly line’ always pejorative in news articles? I know it’s supposed to bring up all sorts of 20’s and 30’s black and white images of laborers being abused by The Man, but have a brief scan around your room and ask how much of what you have came from a dread ‘assembly line’. (I’d be willing to bet the WSJ is, itself, printed out on an assembly line).

What’s the role of the Radiology professional societies here? Will they investigate? Now that the defendant doctors are all ‘lawyered-up’ I doubt they’d participate meaningfully in any investigation that could cost them their Board Certification.


  1. Well, I think the pejorative “assembly line” denotes repetitive churning out of standard product. Not at all a bad thing in manufacturing. But not a good thing in situations requiring individual judgement of unique cases. While the WSJ likely is printed on an assembly line, I would hope that their research, writing and editing are not.

  2. John J. Coupal says:

    Congressman Ed Whitfield is from Kentucky. [No more hillbilly jokes, y’all !] He has also sponsored lots of common-sense medically related legislation. Those well-lawyered physicians will find themselves up against one savvy questioner.

    The tough Judge Jack [love the name!]may have tipped the tort-mobile steamroller off the road. The general public is slowly learning how lawsuit justice is raising healthcare costs for all Americans. And, it’s about time.