Bioethics Blogs

ETHICS OF THE POLITICS OF PAIN

Picking Up the Gauntlet

On May 1, the Center for Practical Bioethics hosted an ethics symposium, something they do every spring. What made this event special enough that it moved me to write about it was the topic, Healing What Hurts: The Politics of Pain.

I’m a bit of an oddball in the pain world. I am not a healthcare professional, nor am I person with chronic pain. I am not an academician or researcher; I don’t work in industry. I am someone who came in the ‘side door’ to the pain world providing services like strategic planning, meeting coordination, and program/project management to organizations like the Center. I can’t truthfully say that helping to change the way pain is perceived, judged and treated is a personal passion of mine. But it has become something I believe in and care about, a testament to the incredible people at the Center with whom I have the privilege of working, and my exposure to the thinking and work of individuals like those who presented last week.

At the symposium, I felt like I was witnessing the creation of a beautiful tapestry, with each speaker picking up the thread of those who came before and continuing to weave the threads together until the complicated (and troubling) reality of the polarizing space in which pain currently resides was achingly clear. Some threads:

  • Historian and author Dr. Keith Wailoo’s spellbinding historical dissection of the poles our policymakers and courts have swung between in answering the questions, “Whose pain matters and who deserves care?” While historians feel more comfortable looking back instead of ahead, Dr.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.