Molecular medicine and concepts of disease: the ethical value of a conceptual analysis of merging biomedical technologies

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Abstract

Although it is now generally acknowledged that new biomedical technologies often produce new definitions and sometimes even new concepts of disease, this observation is rarely used in research that anticipates potential ethical issues in emerging technologies. This article argues that it is useful to start with an analysis of implied concepts of disease when anticipating ethical issues of biomedical technologies. It shows, moreover, that it is possible to do so at an early stage, i.e. when a technology is only just emerging. The specific case analysed here is that of ‘molecular medicine’. This group of emerging technologies combines a ‘cascade model’ of disease processes with a ‘personal pattern’ model of bodily functioning. Whereas the ethical implications of the first are partly familiar from earlier—albeit controversial—forms of preventive and predictive medicine, those of the second are quite novel and potentially far-reaching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11–23
JournalMedicine, health care and philosophy
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords

  • Concept of disease
  • Ethics
  • Emerging technology
  • Epistemology
  • Molecular medicine
  • Personalized medicine
  • Health technology assessment (HTA)

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