Doctor guilty of elder abuse for undertreating pain

American Medical News

A California court ruling could spur physicians to become more knowledgeable about the best way to treat their patients’ pain.

Physicians might want to get up to speed on the latest pain management techniques available now that a California jury has held a doctor liable for undertreating pain. The jurors in June found the internist guilty of elder abuse and recklessness and awarded the now-deceased man’s family $1.5 million.

The guilty verdict came even though Wing Chin, MD, prescribed Demerol (meperidine hydrochloride) to 85-year-old William Bergman to ease the back pain he complained of when he arrived at the Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Calif., in 1998. He sent Bergman home with Vicodin (hydrocodone bitartrate, acetaminophen) and a skin patch containing another drug. Dr. Chin used those pain killers after a dose of morphine temporarily stopped Bergman’s breathing.

But Bergman’s children said the pain killers their father received weren’t strong enough because he was given a fraction of the normal dosage. On a one to 10 scale with 10 being the worst, he ranked his pain between 7 and 10 during his six-day hospital stay. Consequently, they said, he suffered unnecessarily during his final days battling cancer.

The jury agreed. … continue reading on

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