Ex-Surgeon General Testifies in Suit
WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) - Testimony in a medical monitoring lawsuit against the tobacco industry is expected to focus on the validity of using a three-dimensional lung-imaging technology to diagnose cancer and other diseases.
Lawyers for the cigarette makers say the spiral computerized tomography scans are an expensive and uproven technology that cannot alone diagnose lung cancer.
But the smokers' attorneys say it's a cutting-edge technology that can find tumors sooner than traditional X-rays - and perhaps prolong lives.
Tuesday is the ninth day of a trial that is expected to continue through the end of November.
The class-action lawsuit was filed by some 250,000 healthy West Virginia smokers against four tobacco companies, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard.
The smokers, who have smoked a pack a day for at least five years without becoming sick, want an unprecedented medical monitoring program to detect lung diseases.
In addition to the spiral CT scans, the smokers want a test called spirometry, a decades-old measurement of lung function that involves breathing into a tube.
Creating the program could cost the tobacco industry hundreds of millions of dollars.
Lawyers for the tobacco companies contend neither test would change the outcome of a smoker's illness, but two doctors testifying this week will likely focus extensively on the lesser known spiral CT scans.
Expected to take the stand next are Dr. David Burns, a lung specialist from San Diego, Calif., and Dr. Naresh Gupta, a radiology professor at West Virginia University.
On Monday, a former U.S. surgeon general testified that early detection of disease is possible with both spirometry and spiral CT scans.
As recently as July, Dr. Julius Richmond told lawyers in a pretrial deposition that he could not recommend CT scans be used in the medical monitoring program. At the time, he said only that the tests were being studied and looked promising.
The doctor, now an 85-year-old professor emeritus at Harvard University, said he has since changed his mind.