Stigma and the Brain Disease Model of Chronic Pain: An Empirical Bioethics Investigation
Chronic pain is highly stigmatized. People living with chronic pain frequently experience doubt, skepticism, and distrust about their experiences, resulting in poor health outcomes. These harms arise largely because pain is an invisible and subjective experience. There is no clinical test that can confirm objectively that someone is experiencing chronic pain. Some neuroscientists and clinicians suggest that advances in the brain imaging of pain demonstrates that chronic pain is a brain disease. Some researchers argue that brain disease explanations of conditions such as addiction will eliminate the stigma associated with them and improve access to treatment. However, research suggests that brain disease explanations of addiction may unintentionally increase stigma and social distance. With chronic pain neuroscience following a similar trajectory, it is unknown whether brain disease explanations of chronic pain will reduce stigma.
The goal of this research is to determine the pervasiveness and influence of a brain disease explanation of chronic pain on stigma specifically. We aim to 1) Investigate the effects of a brain disease explanation of chronic pain on the degree to which adults without chronic pain stigmatize others who live with chronic pain; and 2) Explore the influence of a brain disease explanation on stigma with members of the public, chronic pain sufferers, and healthcare professionals. A secondary aim is to explore intersectional relationships between gender, brain disease explanations, stigma, racism, and pain diagnosis.
- Dr Daniel Buchman (Nominated PI)
- Dr Karen Davis (Co-PI)
- Dr Rachel Bosma
- Prof Jennifer Chandler
- Brooke Magel
- Dr Javeed Sukhera
- Dr Christopher Lo
- Kathryn Sutton (Pain BC)
Funders and partners
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)