In the first case of its kind, a jury earlier this year found a physician guilty of undermedicating a patient for pain. Claiming that such an action amounted to elder abuse and recklessness, the judge awarded $1.5 million to the patient's family. The precedent-setting case occurred after the passage of a Congressional provision, the Decade of Pain Control and Research, which went into effect Jan. 1. Signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton and sponsored by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, this mandate is intended to stimulate progress into pain research, education, and clinical management.

"Too many people with chronic pain are undertreated," says neuroscientist Allan I. Basbaum, department of anatomy chairman and member of the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco. "Pain is difficult to measure. You can't see it and thus the medical community often underestimates the magnitude of a patient's...

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