When Ray Harron decided to manufacture cancer diagnoses for money, he was probably thinking about his own bottom line.
All accounts suggest the Bridgeport radiologist made millions in tandem with some enterprising trial lawyers, selling them his own seal of medical approval as a means of legitimizing tens of thousands of their asbestos-related claims to our justice system.
Here and elsewhere, Harron and his partners executed their scheme to perfection, laughing all the way to the bank.
These days, Harron is no longer speed-reading x-rays for cash. He's comfortably retired. But his legacy lives on, according to a recent survey of West Virginia doctors conducted by the University of Virginia and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA).
The results showed that an overwhelming majority of Mountain State doctors -- some 80 percent --- believe testimony by medical experts such as Harron "has a negative impact on the integrity of their profession." And a shocking 72 percent say they have witnessed statements by purported medical experts in court that they viewed as "inaccurate or based on questionable science."
Consider the source, say the trial lawyers, noting that the group behind this survey, CALA, like most interest groups has an axe to grind.
But all agendas considered, it's difficult to ignore such strong, overwhelming sentiment from our medical community that their collective reputation -- and that of our justice system -- are being so tarnished.
This isn't to suggest even trial lawyers believe it's OK for "medical experts" in court to say only what they're paid to say.
As West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association President Jeff Jones correctly pointed out upon this survey's release, it is plainly unethical to pay doctors on "contingency." Lawyers aren't supposed to "bonus" doctors if they prove more effective on the stand, or perform well enough to help them win.
Yet, apparently, they still do.
Alas, nobody denies that what Ray Harron did -- the New York Times estimated he read 150 x-rays of prospective asbestos plaintiffs per-day in his prime -- wasn't explicitly against the rules. Lawyers working with Harron were, presumably, in the wrong as well. And they knew it.
But the lot of them still haven't formally investigated. They haven't been sanctioned or called to account by our state attorney general, U.S. Attorneys or the state bar for this travesty of justice.
Until they are; until the people receive some assurance that such grand misdeeds don't routinely go unnoticed and unpunished, their stigma will live on here in West Virginia.