Many Americans do not experience a good death. The inadequate treatment of pain at the end of life has been associated with a lack of supportive public policies more than a lack of evidence-based clinical practices or organizational efforts. Given a widespread lack of understanding about pain policies, we examine the critical role played by state medical boards in developing pain policies and then apply event history analysis to identify the variables most critical to the formation of these policies. We develop an integrated model and evaluate the adoption of eight different types of pain policies. The analytic models incorporate fifteen years of observational data and test the impact of contextual, political, extrinsic, and institutional variables. They reveal that the presence of legal counselors on state medical boards has consistently increased the likelihood that state boards adopt policies associated with progressive pain management. Further, policy has been negatively influenced by historical activity: boards that previously adopted one pain policy have been less likely to subsequently adopt additional pain policies. This work illuminates mechanisms behind state pain-policy adoption and provides valuable information for advocates who seek to improve pain-management policy and reduce the amount of pain at the end of life.