Bergman v. Eden Medical Center
This 2001 landmark case decided that caregivers must manage patient’s pain. Mr. Bergman was an 85-year old man with a history of chronic back pain. The Vicodin he’d been prescribed was no longer alleviating his discomfort. The doctor suspected that Mr. Bergman had lung cancer, but Bergman wanted no biopsy, chemotherapy or radiation. When discharged to go home, Mr. Bergman‘s pain level was a 10 on the 1-10 scale, but was prescribed only Demerol to treat his pain. Two days later he was finally prescribed morphine. He relaxed in his sleep and died the next day.
Bergman’s family filed a lawsuit under California’s elder abuse statute. Mr. Bergman’s attorney argued that his doctor should have put Bergman on round-the-clock pain medication to keep him comfortable and sedated. The jury found in favor of Bergman, awarding the family $1.5 million for punitive damages.
This case was a landmark victory for the rights of the terminally ill.