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“Rethinking Chronic Pain” - Jessica Flanigan (University of Richmond)

Jessica Flanigan
Jessica Flanigan
Jepson School of Leadership Studies
University of Richmond
Peabody Hall, Room 115

At least 20 percent of adults suffer from chronic pain. Pain reprocessing therapy is a promising, though often overlooked, treatment for chronic pain. Reprocessing therapy, broadly understood, consists in learning about the neurological nature of pain, identifying the psychosocial causes of chronic pain, journaling, behavioral therapy, and the resumption of normal activities. Crucially, reprocessing therapy requires that the patient acknowledge that they are not physically injured and accept that their pain has a psychological origin. In section 1, I argue that a significant number of chronic pain patients are suffering from psychosomatic pain disorders and I introduce reprocessing therapy as a promising treatment. In section 2, I then argue that a person who suffers from chronic pain can rationally undergo reprocessing therapy to address their chronic pain, even though the therapy requires patients to initially adopt a belief for pragmatic reasons. I address potential ethical objections to the promotion of reprocessing therapy for chronic pain in section 3. Section 4 concludes.

Jessica Flanigan is the Richard L Morrill Chair of Ethics and Democratic Values at the University of Richmond, where she teaches Leadership Ethics, Ethical Decision-Making in Healthcare, and Critical Thinking. Her research addresses the ethics of public policy, medicine, and business. In Pharmaceutical Freedom (OUP 2017) she defends rights of self-medication. In Debating Sex Work (OUP 2019) she defends the decriminalization of sex work. Flanigan has also published in journals such as Philosophical Studies, The Journal of Business Ethics, Leadership, The Journal of Moral Philosophy, and the Journal of Political Philosophy. She is currently writing a book about the ethics of pregnancy and a book about language and ethics. She is also a proponent of Effective Altruism.

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