Can I sue a doctor/hospital for unnecessary pan and suffering?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I sue a doctor/hospital for unnecessary pan and suffering?

My mother passed away from pancreatic cancer 4 months ago. The doctor that she had while she was in the hospital, up until she passed, refused to put her on a morphine drip even though that is what she wanted and even refused to increase her pain meds in general. He finally increased her pain and anxiety meds, but only slightly, after myself and my mother’s significant other went to the CEO of the hospital. My mother, along with myself and the rest of the family and friends fought, or tried to fight for her for comfort care and an increase in her pain and anxiety meds as she was in an abundance of physical pain, not to mention the anxiety and fear of dying, the entire 17 days that she was there and went through absolute hell with the doctor. He didn’t truly increase her pain and anxiety meds to what she needed until less than 24 hours before she passed away when he finally put her on a morphine drip. This doctor also told us that they don’t ‘euthanize’ people there referring to her as an animal He had ZERO bedside manner and ZERO compassion There is more to it, but this is briefly and am wondering if I have a case to sue the doctor/hospital for unnecessary pain and suffering?

Asked on November 22, 2016 under Malpractice Law, Maine


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

No, unfortunately, you cannot sue for this. A claim for pain and suffering is personal to an individual; her family or loved ones cannot bring it for her after her death as a general rule. Also, pain is by itself not something you can generally recover for (usually you recover for an injury which has pain as a side effect, but you do not indicate that the hospital or doctor caused th conditon that claimed your mother's life); the only times you can generally sue for pain by itself is when the other person intentionally caused you pain to cause you pain--and not in the exercise of medical judgment (even if incorrect) about what was in the patient's interest. Furthermore, a claim for increased pain for 17 days (assuming you could bring it) would not be worth the cost of bringing the claim, since you'd have to hire one or more medical experts to go over the records and testify, and those people might cost as much or more than you'd get. 
There is no claim at all for lack of compassion or no bedside manner: the law does not require medical professionals to have compassion or a good bedside manner. 
For many reasons, therefore, this is not a viable lawsuit. You can however file a complaint with the state agency or board that regulates doctors and hospitals, on the basis of unprofessional or unethical conduct.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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