Painful Disparities, Painful Realities

67 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2014 Last revised: 2 Apr 2014

See all articles by Amanda C. Pustilnik

Amanda C. Pustilnik

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

Date Written: March 10, 2014


Legal doctrines and decisional norms treat chronic claims pain differently than other kinds of disability or damages claims because of bias and confusion about whether chronic pain is real. This is law’s painful disparity. Now, breakthrough neuroimaging can make pain visible, shedding light on these mysterious ills. Neuroimaging shows these conditions are, as sufferers have known all along, painfully real. This Article is about where law ought to change because of innovations in structural and functional imaging of the brain in pain. It describes cutting-edge scientific developments and the impact they should make on evidence law and disability law, and, eventually the law’s norms about pain. It suggests that pain neuroimaging will solve current legal problems and also open the door to reconsiderations of law’s treatment of other subjective phenomena like mental states and emotions, going to the theoretical heart of legal doctrines about body and mind.

Keywords: Law & neuroscience, neuroimaging, pain, disability, evidence, legal norms

JEL Classification: K10, K13, K32, K41

Suggested Citation

Pustilnik, Amanda C., Painful Disparities, Painful Realities (March 10, 2014). U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-18, Available at SSRN: or

Amanda C. Pustilnik (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

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