Hello again, qpet! I've put together some material on "pain and
suffering" as viewed through several lenses: the legal, the
medical/psychological, and the spiritual.
Legally speaking, "pain and suffering" isn't two separate entities,
but is one compound concept. You'll notice that jury awards for "pain
and suffering" are not apportioned into separate amounts, one for pain
and one for suffering.
This is one of those legal terms that is, functionally, a near
I asked a friend who is an attorney for his view of the term "pain and
suffering." Here is his reply:
"You are correct, that it is a phrase that is always used as a unit.
In theory there are differences between 'pain' and 'suffering', but
when you try to separate the two... you really can't. Particularly
when trying to award damages. I don't know of any legislation or rule
which tries to separate the two, but you will find plenty of examples
of legislation, jury instructions, or 'tort reform' sites which lump
them into the same category. '
The distinction is really between economic damages (past, present and
future monetary losses and expenses) versus non-economic damages (pain
and suffering). (And, for somebody whose loved one has 'pain and
suffering', a possible claim for 'loss of consortium'.)"
Here is a concise description of the term as used in legal matters:
"Pain and suffering is a legal term that includes all problems a
person may experience as a result of an accident.
The legal definition of pain and suffering includes the loss of
physical abilities, such as the use of your hand or foot, and physical
discomfort, such as chronic backache or stiffness in your neck. The
term also includes any emotional pain you might suffer, such as worry,
anxiety, embarrassment, and the loss of the pleasures and enjoyment of
More on "pain and suffering" as a legal concept:
"In most cases of personal injury there will be physical and mental
pain and suffering. Physical pain and suffering may include but is not
limited to bodily suffering or discomfort. Mental pain and suffering
may include but is not limited to mental anguish or loss of enjoyment
of life. If you suffer physical and mental pain and suffering after an
accident you can recover for both physical and mental pain and
suffering from the date of injury to the present time. If there is
medical testimony that you will suffer from future physical and or
mental pain and suffering you can make a claim for this item of damage
Sometimes injuries sustained in an accident are significant enough
that you will lose the loss of function of your mind and/or body. If
you suffer the loss of the funcion of you mind and/or body as a result
of an accident you can seek recovery for that loss of function both
for the past and in the future.
The amount that you are entitled to recover for physical and mental
pain and suffering, loss of future earning capacity of loss of
function of the mind and body both in the past and in the future
cannot usually be measured by any exact or mathematical standard. In
cases where these items of damage are suffered the jury will be told
that they should use their sound judgment based upon the evidence in
assessing the amount of recovery for each of those elements of
Fredd J. Haas, Attorney
Here you'll find a well-worded distinction between pain and suffering:
"The Faith and Genetics Working Group contemplated the prospect of
genetic therapies. Our deliberations implied that differences exist
between pain and suffering. Pain is the hurt, either physical or
emotional, that we experience. Suffering, on the other hand, is the
bearing of distress oftentimes caused by physical or emotional pain,
or caused by some other factor. As was said in our deliberations,
"Suffering is the story we tell ourselves of our pain."
Boston Theological Institute
In a newsgroup thread about the use of animals in research I found
this brief and thoughtful post:
"It's helpful to think about the difference between pain and
suffering. Suffering is pain plus anxiety and anguish, and for this
you need to be thinking about the future and looking forward to
something unpleasant. A guy who won the olympic gold medal and is
really sore the next day, or a woman having some normal labor pains
with a 5th child, will both be having some pain, but not a great deal
of suffering. A cancer patient with the same amount of pain from an
incurable tumor will suffer a great deal more. Bend that fingernail
back doing something you really love to do, vs having it bent back by
somebody who wants information from you, and it's an entirely
It takes a LOT of pain to make you suffer terribly if you're not
worried about your future, and you aren't ruminating about what the
pain signifies. That's where the animals have the advantage: they
don't worry. They don't suffer much due to mild pain, any more than
you do when it comes from working out too hard. When the research dog
wags his tail, he's not lying. He just doesn't know what comes next,
and I don't tell him.
Post from rec.scuba newsgroup
Here are excerpts from several other discussions of pain and
"Suffering is NOT our fault. It is not that we choose to suffer. It is
that no one has ever taught us how to choose not to. Not that we opt
for it, but that we don't opt not. There is a way not to suffer. Most
of us don't know it...
There is a story in the Buddhist literature about a lady who comes to
the Buddha to ask that her suffering be taken away, for her child has
just died. Buddha says to her, 'I will take your suffering away; but
first I want you to go through the village and ask until you find
someone who has never lost a loved one.'
She goes through the village asking, 'Anyone not have someone die?'
She comes back to the Buddha and says, 'Thank you.'
...Buddha recognized that suffering is the result of our habits of
mind in responding to that pain. It is not the pain that causes the
suffering. It is our habits of mind in responding to pain that causes
First Unitarian Church of Honolulu
"In our ageing society the number of people confronted to diseases and
death increases continually so does anxiety and suffering related to
it. Although the medical treatment of pain is more and more mastered
almost nothing is done to alleviate the suffering of people in
terminal ill their family and medical staff. There is a distinction
between pain and suffering: suffering encompasses the
psycho-physiologic aspect of the human condition, whereas pain is
strictly physical. Medicine progresses rapidly in the biochemical
understanding of pain. On the other hand no anti-suffering medication
"Pain, the physiological manifestation of what is wrong with our
bodies, can be controlled by drugs (as well as other treatments such
as massage, bio-feedback, imaging, and so on). Suffering is that part
of the human condition which affects us in the defeat of our dreams,
the bruising of our loves, and the broken trust we have in our world.
Suffering is the anguish of the human spirit experienced in a thousand
thousand ways from the trivial anger of a child who can't get its own
way to the profound agony of the despairing."
Redemptorist Bioethics Consultancy
"Even where medical knowledge understands pain, it may not appreciate
the nature of suffering. The two are not synonymous, although each may
lead to the other. Pain is a highly unpleasant feeling located at a
particular site in the body, as with a headache or a backache, or
perhaps at several sites at once. Suffering is an emotional state
involving the whole body and mind and makes one's relationship to the
world intolerable. It darkens one's view of the past, the present and
University of Toronto
Here's an interesting study of terminally ill hospice patients which
differentiates pain from suffering, and quantifies both:
"What is the relationship between terminally ill patients' pain and
their physical, spiritual, or personal/family suffering? This study of
92 hospice patients set out to learn more. The study evaluated
patients' pain in the immediate past 24 hours with a validated,
reliable 0-10 Standard Numeric Pain Distress Scale. A Suffering
Assessment Tool developed by hospice staff was also administered at
the time of interview, with questions designed to assess physical,
spiritual, and personal/family suffering... Investigators concluded
that patients do, in fact, distinguish clearly between pain and
suffering and that as distinct categories they are separately
Partners Against Pain
"Pain is basically a signal from the body to the brain telling you
that something is wrong. There are three components of
painbiological, psychological, and social/cultural. Pain is a total
biopsychosocial experience. Biological pain is a signal that something
is going wrong with your body. Psychological Pain results from the
meaning that an you assign to the pain signal. Social and Cultural
Pain, also known as suffering, results from the social and cultural
meaning assigned by other people to the pain that is being
Addiction-Free Pain Management
"Social and Cultural Pain, also known as suffering, results from the
social and cultural meaning assigned by other people to the pain that
is being experienced, and whether or not the pain is recognized as
being severe enough to warrant a socially approved sick role. These
three components determine whether the signal from the body to the
brain is interpreted as pain or suffering.
The psychological meaning applied by the mind to the physical pain
signal will determine whether we simply feel pain (Ouch, this hurts!)
or experience suffering (Because I hurt, something awful or terrible
is happening!). Although pain and suffering are often used
interchangeably, there is an important distinction that needs to be
made. Pain is an unpleasant signal telling us that something is wrong
with our body. Suffering results from the meaning or interpretation we
assign to the pain."
Addiction-Free Pain Management
One of the most succinct and insightful views I've encountered this
subject is summarized in the Zen aphorism "Pain is inevitable;
suffering is optional." Pain may be inflicted upon us whether we will
it or no, but we can choose whether or not to be co-conspirators in
Search terms used:
"definition of pain and suffering"
"distinction between pain and suffering"
"difference between pain and suffering"
"the term pain and suffering"
I hope this is helpful. Please request clarification if I can
fine-tune this information more precisely to your needs.