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Undermedicating Called Elder Abuse: Jury Awards $1.5 Million Over Cancer Pain

World Federation Member Society – Compassion in Dying – Successful in Court Case
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Undermedicating Called Elder Abuse:
Jury Awards $1.5 Million Over Cancer Pain
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A jury has awarded $1.5 million to the family of a man who accused his doctor of not prescribing enough pain medication during a battle with lung cancer.

The jury found internist Dr. Wing Chin’s treatment of retired railroad detective William Bergman amounted to elder abuse and recklessness. The jury deadlocked on whether Chin was also liable for malice, oppression or intentional emotional distress.

The lawsuit by Bergman’s family alleged Chin did not prescribe strong enough pain medicines to ease Bergman’s back pain in his final days. Bergman, 85, died in 1998.

It was the first case of its kind, in which undermedicating was called elder abuse, Kathryn Tucker, legal director of the Oregon nonprofit Compassion in Dying Federation has said.

“It’ll send a message to the medical community that they cannot undermedicate without consequences,'” said Bergman’s daughter, Beverly Bergman, who filed the suit with her brother and sister.

The California Medical Board took no action on a complaint they filed, saying it did not find convincing evidence of a violation of the medical practice act.

Chin declined to comment after the verdict. His attorney, Bob Flattery, said he was disappointed with the outcome and would discuss an appeal.

Cassandra Phelps, spokeswoman for Eden Medical Center, where Bergman was hospitalized, also called the verdict disappointing and said Chin “has devoted his entire career to caring for patients, many of whom are seniors.”

History of Elder Abuse Case

June 14, 2000 . . . Doctor found reckless for not relieving pain : $1.5 million jury verdict for family of cancer patient who went home to Hayward to die (San Francisco Chronicle)

February 7, 2000 . . . Lawsuit Alleges Elder Abuse for Inadequate Pain Control (Nurses.Com )

Feb. 3, 2000 . . . Press Release . . . Undertreating Pain Can Amount to Elder Abuse (Compassion in Dying Federation)