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My Response to Rejection of Letter-to-Editor

Lawrence Martin, M.D., FCCP


9000 Mentor Avenue

Mentor, Ohio 44060

April 10, 2004

A. J. Block, M.D., Master, FCCP

Editor in Chief, Chest

3300 Dundee Road

Northbrook, IL 60062-2348


             Re:      Letter-to-the-editor regarding: Ohar J, Sterling DA, Bleecker E, Donohue J. Changing patterns in asbestos-induced lung disease. Chest 2004;125:744-753.

Dear Dr. Block:

Regarding your refusal to print my letter, you wrote: “The ACCP and Chest do not wish to enter into any more asbestos controversy. Sorry.” My letter should not have been viewed as controversial, but only as a reasoned and strong response to a Chest article that is seriously flawed. My letter provides much detail to back up this assessment, including reference to six prior Chest articles on asbestos diseases that refute the Ohar, et al conclusions. Anyone who reads my letter with an open mind will see that it’s purpose is not to inflame but to inform, using fact and citation.

After my letter was mailed Chest published an extensive review of asbestos pleural disease (Asbestos and the Pleura, by Cugell and Kamp, Chest 2004;125:1103-1117); Figure 3 in that article, plus related discussion, clearly contradict the sweeping conclusions by Ohar, et al regarding asbestos pleural abnormalities. That makes seven Chest articles with evidence refuting the Ohar, et al publication. And you won’t inform your readers because it’s ‘controversial’?

From my reading of the journal, there has been nothing published in Chest to warrant your “any more” comment. Your comment suggests the true controversy may have been within ACCP, over whether Chest should publish my letter, or just put its head in the sand and hope Dr. Martin goes away. For this reason I am also copying the current and future president of ACCP. On the chance that Dr. Ohar is a true academician, and not just a hired shill for plaintiff attorneys, I am also sending her a copy. Certainly she and her colleagues should be aware of the mountain of documentation that refutes their article. I will also send a copy to Dr. do Pico, editor of Chest’s Occupational Medicine section.

It’s sad that a reputable journal like Chest should publish such a provably unsound article, and then not have the courage to print a critical letter. Why is “asbestos” treated so differently from every other topic in Chest? It makes me wonder if Chest/ACCP was paid by plaintiff attorneys to publish this article, or paid not to publish a response. I hope that Chest’s refusal was more cowardly (afraid to admit it published junk science) than venal (paid by plaintiff’s attorneys).

Chest’s denial of a rebuttal — no matter what your reasons — undermines honest medical discourse. It is one more example of how academic and institutional medicine have turned the other way while asbestos litigation prostitutes the scientific process. Plaintiff-attorney-hired (or sponsored) physicians like Dr. Ohar, et al can make any asbestos diagnoses they wish, no matter how absurd or implausible, and no one in academic medicine will challenge them! If these physicians sent you an article about thousands of cases of lung cancer or sarcoidosis or asthma -- using diagnostic criteria proven specious by prior Chest articles -- would you also have published it? Would you also have refused a rebuttal?

My only recourse is to post the letter, along with an explanation of why I think it wasn’t published, on the internet. Then perhaps someone at ACCP will be brave enough to post a response as to how Chest came to publish this piece of junk science, and even more so why ACCP refused to let one of its members (and a Chest reviewer) respond in the pages of their journal.

Finally, I am copying Professor Lester Brickman, whose work in Pepperdine Law Review (referenced in the letter) has documented the fraudulent nature of mass asbestos screenings. The Ohar, et al cohort of patients is part and parcel of this massive scam, now hiding behind the imprimatur of Chest. This will be one more item he can add to his list of reasons why the scam appears unstoppable.  

I am truly sorry you/Chest/ACCP view a detailed, reasoned response to junk science as ‘controversial.’ That makes it a sad day for medicine, science and the truth.

Yours truly,

Lawrence Martin, M.D., FCCP


cc:       Professor Lester Brickman, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

             Richard S. Irwin, MD, FCCP, President, ACCP

             Paul Kvale, MD, FCCP, President-elect, ACCP

             Jill Ohar, MD, FCCP

             Guillermo A. do Pico, MD, FCCP

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