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Brain Scans Of Pain Raise Questions For The Law

Publication Date: 
January 09, 2009
Greg Miller

Professor Henry T. "Hank" Greely is quoted in Science Magazine in an article about how the law treats brain scans and neuroimaging as evidence for the existence of pain:

Ready or not, neuroimaging is knocking on the courthouse door. Last summer, Sean Mackey, a neurologist who directs Stanford University’s Pain Management Center, was asked by defense lawyers in a workers’ compensation case to serve as an expert witness.


The two sides reached a settlement, says Mackey, who spoke at a Stanford Law School event that brought together neuroscientists and legal scholars to discuss how the neuroimaging of pain potentially could be used—or abused—in the legal system.


“You scientists care more about causation than we do in the law,” said Stanford law professor Henry “Hank” Greely. “If the correlation is high enough, … we would see that as a useful tool.” Indeed, Greely and others noted, even if fMRI can’t provide a perfectly objective measure of pain, it may still be better than the alternatives.