Donna Dickenson on personalised medicine

In a fascinating essay published by Project Syndicate , and reprinted by and in German by Welt Online, the American-born philosopher Donna Dickenson considers some of the possibilities that medicine based on belief that each individual has special characteristics that can be used to keep him or her healthy open up, but fears that resources will invested in developing drugs and interventions for this new and potentially profitable market, and in more effective health interventions that will benefit the many.

Francis Collins, Director of the United States’ National Institutes of Health, guides us through the upheaval in his new book The Language of Life – DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine. As he puts it, “We are on the leading edge of a true revolution in medicine, one that promises to transform the traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach into a much more powerful strategy that considers each individual as unique and as having special characteristics that should guide an approach to staying healthy. But you have to be ready to embrace this new world.”

This seismic shift toward genetic personalized medicine promises to give each of us insight into our deepest personal identity – our genetic selves – and let us sip the elixir of life in the form of individually tailored testing and drugs. But can we really believe these promises?

Genetic personalized medicine isn’t the only important new development. Commercial ventures like private blood banks play up the uniqueness of your baby’s umbilical-cord blood. Enhancement technologies like deep-brain stimulation – “Botox for the brain” – promote the idea that you have a duty to be the best “me” possible. In fact, modern biotechnology is increasingly about “me” medicine, the “brand” being individual patients’ supposed distinctiveness………..

Read the complete article here.

Illustration by Zhou Tao (


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