Personalized and Precision Medicine

Authored by: Alex Gamma

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138846791
eBook ISBN: 9781315720739
Adobe ISBN: 9781317519850


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There are two prevalent characterizations of “personalized” or “precision” medicine (PM; the abbreviation “PM” will refer to both of these terms, as they describe the same or very similar ideas, and whatever difference might exist between them will not matter for the purposes of this chapter). Their common core is the idea that medical treatment should be tailored to the individual characteristics of each patient in order to be maximally effective, precise, and free of side effects. Where they differ is in their view regarding which kind of patient characteristics should determine the choice of treatment. There is a broad definition that considers any kind of feature of an individual—biological, psychological, environmental—as potentially valuable in guiding treatment decisions (Anonymous, 2012; Buford and Pahor, 2012; Wolpe, 2009). The more typical view, however, is that it is essentially the molecular biology and, within that, the genetic profile of a person, which determines the optimal treatment (Ginsburg, 2001; Meyer, 2012; Personalized Medicine Coalition, 2015; Sweet and Michaelis, 2011). In this view, medical interventions can be tailored to individuals by tailoring them to their genetic constitution.

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