News Briefs

Failure to ease pain brings large jury award

A San Francisco jury awarded $1.5 million to a family of a deceased cancer patient who died while experiencing severe pain. The jurors agree that Wing Chin, MD, failed to address the patient’s pain adequately, but it did not rule that he acted with malice or had intentionally caused emotional distress, so there were no punitive damages.

In a trial that became a forum for the debate over how pain is treated in American medicine, an Alameda County jury on June 14 found that the internist committed elder abuse and reckless negligence by not giving enough pain medication to William Bergman, who died in 1998.

The suit was brought by Beverly Bergman, 45, the daughter of the retired railroad detective. The verdict is a major victory for patients’ rights advocates who argue that many doctors don’t treat pain adequately.