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Concord Nursing Home, Doctor Accused of Letting Man Suffer

Mar 30, 2003 | Contra Costa Times

Lester Tomlinson spent his final days moaning in so much agony that his daughter bought earplugs for his roommate in a Concord nursing home.

Now two years after his death, the Medical Board of California has filed a complaint accusing his Pleasant Hill doctor of mismanaging his pain treatment, and Ginger Tomlinson has sued the doctor and nursing home, alleging elder abuse for not doing enough to ease her father's suffering.

The actions highlight the increased national attention paid to pain management issues and a stepped-up willingness by advocacy groups to challenge a doctor's decisions.

It comes at a time when studies reveal that many physicians inadequately treat pain for fear of being investigated for prescribing too many narcotics.

Compassion in Dying, a non-profit group that draws attention to the issue, assisted Ginger Tomlinson and her mother, Rosa, in filing the lawsuit. The trial is scheduled to begin April 21 in Contra Costa County Superior Court.

Compassion in Dying also participated in a groundbreaking 2001 case that resulted in a $250,000 judgment against a Castro Valley doctor for giving too little pain medication to a dying man.

Ginger Tomlinson contacted Compassion in Dying after hearing about the Castro Valley case. She declined to be interviewed for this story, but court documents detail her allegations.

Tomlinson said her father ``suffered an agonizing death while my pleas for pain control were ignored. I was treated as though I was a nuisance, not my father's legal advocate.''

Eugene Whitney, Tomlinson's doctor, declined to comment.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed the accusation against Whitney on behalf of Ron Joseph, executive director of the California Medical Board. An administrative law judge will conduct a hearing and make a recommendation, which the medical board can accept or reject.

The board may decide to take no action if it concludes the accusation is groundless. Or it could impose discipline ranging from a public reprimand to probation or suspension of Whitney's license.

The medical board has filed only a handful of such accusations in the past involving inadequate pain management, said spokeswoman Candis Cohen.

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