Monthly Archives: October 2011

Can we finally ‘see pain’? Brain imaging techniques and implications for our access to a very subjective experience.

euroimaging techniques are knocking on the courthouse door, by claiming to be something that could be called a ‘pain-ometer’. One recent case is telling, where in 2008, Sean Mackey, neurologist at Stanford University and Director of Stanford Pain Management Center, was asked by defence lawyers in a workers’ compensation case to serve as an expert witness for a man who claimed that chemical burns in the workplace left him with chronic pain. This particular case did not go to trial, as the two sides reached a settlement, but the possibility of legal applications of brain imaging techniques, in particular of fMRI, remains very real. The assessment of chronic pain is a highly unmet medical need. Chronic pain is also the subject of a large and costly category of legal claims. Yet, with pain cases, the jury always face a doubt: is the claimant faking or malingering? How can we be assured that the claimant is ‘really’ in pain? As most recently, several new neuroimaging technologies -but in particular fMRI- are promising to solve these questions, by rendering pain visible, measurable and, to some degree, verifiable. The results of these advancements have prompted us to think of pain in a different way, i.e. as an altered brain state in which functional connections are modified, with components of degenerative aspects. Does this imply the stronger claim that these technologies allow us to ‘know’, or to literally ‘see’, the pain of others? Is the pain being objectified by these techniques? And if so, what might the law do differently, or do better? Are there sufficient arguments to claim that brain imaging techniques for the measurement of chronic pain are better than existing tools? And can brain imaging techniques pass the criteria for scientific admissibility in court (relatively to the context of pain claims)? Continue reading

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Derek Jarman’s Dungeness Garden

Outside of King’s College London on The Strand there are a selection of photographs of notable alumni. Amongst them is Derek Jarman who is described by the KCL facade as ‘a film and stage designer, artist, writer and gay rights … Continue reading

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Coming up soon at King’s! Workshop exploring the concept of Health & Disease, Ability and Dis-ability in Elite Sports.

Disciplinary boundaries often unnecessarily separate students with similar interests.King’s Interdisciplinary Discussion Society (KIDS) is a new group seeking to bring together postgraduates and staff from all schools to discuss the philosophy and ethics of health. The next KIDS Winter Workshop, co-organized with the Centre for the Humanities & Health, will explore the concept of health and disease, able and dis-abled in relation to sports and the construction of categories in elite competitions. The workshop will be opened by Professor Brian Hurwitz, Director of the CHH and D’Oyly Carte Professor of Medicine and the Arts in the Department of English. Mike McNamee, Professor of Applied Ethics at Swansea University, will give us philosophical insights into the concept of enhancement in sports. Professor McNamee is the former President of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport, and was the founding Chair of the British Philosophy of Sport Association. Dr Vanessa Heggie is based at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University and will offer a historical and ethical perspective on the history of gender testing in sports. A medical perspective on enhancement in sports will be given by Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, lead of the Healthcare Innovation and Policy Unit at Queen Mary University. Trisha’s research interests lie at the interface between sociology and medicine, where she uses innovative interdisciplinary approaches, drawing on narrative, ethnographic and participatory methods, to explore complex, policy-related issues in contemporary healthcare.
We hope to see many of you on November 10 in the Great Hall (King’s College Strand Campus)! The event is free of charge but you need to write an email to to indicate the number of places you’d like to reserve as the number of attendees is limited. The event will run from 430 to 730 pm, with drinks reception to follow!

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