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OUCH! Developing a Machine that Measures Pain

Publication Date: 
September 13, 2011
Voice of America - Science World

Professor Hank Greely is quoted in the below Science World article on a new tool which could measure a persons pain-and the legal ramifications it may carry with it.

“Would you describe your pain as being sharp, aching, or throbbing, in nature or do you feel pressure?”

“On a scale of one to 10, how much pain would you say you’re experiencing right now?”

That subjective quiz has pretty much been the method doctors have used for years to determine the kind and severity of pain their patients experience.


A tool that can accurately measure pain could also have legal ramifications, according to Stanford law professor Hank Greely, an expert on the legal, ethical and social issues involving the biosciences.

“A robust, accurate way to determine whether someone is in pain or not would be a godsend for the legal system,” said Greely, who was not associated with the study.

The idea for the study took root at a 2009 Stanford Law School event organized by Greely, in which neuroscientists and legal scholars discussed how neuroimaging pain could be utilized, as well as abused, in legal proceedings.