The Current

Neuroscientist says brain scans can validate chronic pain

We explore the next step for neuroscience in the courtroom... how brain scans could help prove a person's chronic pain.

On a scale of one to ten, how bad does it hurt? It's a hard question to answer. For most people, pain is difficult to measure... and almost impossible to prove. But new technology might change this, and a grandfather in the U.S. is hoping it might validate the severity of his chronic pain in court.

Juan Rodriguez from Orlando, Florida, hopes his brain scans will help prove that he truly experiences chronic pain. Mr. Rodriguez and his lawyer argue the court should recognize the results of his brain scan in his civil case seeking damages for his injuries. His case is one of the first in the U.S. looking to incorporate this pain measure as evidence... Even though scientists are still divided on its reliability.

Dr. Joy Hirsch is a neuroscientist at the Yale School of Medicine. She scanned Juan Rodriguez's brain. 

Dr. Sean Mackey is the Chief of Stanford University's Division of Pain Medicine. He opposed the use of Dr. Joy Hirsch's brain scans in court. And Hank Greely is a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in bioethics.

​This segment was produced by The Current's Sonya Buyting and Sarah Grant.