torsdag 12. mars 2015

Personalised medicine anyone?

Recently I moved to Trondheim. (It was with a heavy heart I left Svalbard, a decision made even more difficult by the fact that my family didn't. But when they join me in June I assume we will all settle in fine.) Since new year I have been part of a research group called RESET (Research Group on the Ethos of Technology). To be more specific, my work is concerned with the moral and scientific ambiguities within what is called Personalised Medicine. Hopefully, in three years time, I can on the basis of this work call myself Doctor of Philosophy. Being entirely new to this field (not philosophy but philosophy of medicine), familiarising myself with it has been quite time consuming. This is the main reason for my being so inactive on Blogger the past few months.

"Personal" is a buzzword in today's society. Amazon as well as Youtube offers personalised recommondations. The more personalised a service is, the better -- or so the cultural trend seems to imply. What then is more natural than hoping for a more personalised healthcare? This is what I hope to investigate. One challenge is separating hope from hype. Consider some key slogans: Away with the one-size-fits-all approach to medicine! The right treatment to the right person at the right time! Barack Obama touched both in a recent speech. What but Amen can one say to this? Disagreement seems impossible. But that is my problem too. If no alternative position is available (who, after all, thinks impersonal ill-treatment is the future?), I struggle to see what one hopes to achieve with this rhetoric. Nor is it obvious to me what is novel about it either. I mean, the rhetoric itself is clearly a recent invention; but what else is new? Obama seems to imply that medicine is about to be radically changed. But hasn't clinical medicine always been about treating individuals? The fact that no two people are identical and may react differently to the same drug has been known ever since Hippocrates. True, part of the vision is that genome sequencing will play a prominent role in future healthcare -- and this has become technologically possible only in recent years. Still, it is not clear to me why this should be thought of as representing a paradigm shift in medicine rather than as a refinement of existing scientific practices (nor for that matter, why it is best thought of as "personalising" medicine).

To be continued...

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