Personalized healthcare-or what the award-winning author Donna Dickenson calls Me Medicine -is radically transforming our longstanding one-size-fits-all model. Techlogies such as direct-to-consumer genetic testing, pharmacogenetically developed therapies in cancer care, private umbilical cord blood banking, and neurocognitive enhancement claim to cater to an individual's specific biological character, and, in some cases, these techlogies have shown powerful potential. Yet in others they have produced negligible or even negative results. Whatever is behind the rise of Me Medicine, it isn't just science. So why is Me Medicine rapidly edging out We Medicine, and how has our commitment to our collective health suffered as a result? In her cogent, provocative analysis, Dickenson examines the ecomic and political factors fueling the Me Medicine phemen and explores how, over time, this paradigm shift in how we approach our health might damage our individual and collective well-being. Historically, the measures of We Medicine, such as vaccination and investment in public-health infrastructure, have radically extended our life spans, and Dickenson argues we've lost sight of that truth in our enthusiasm for Me Medicine. Dickenson explores how personalized medicine illustrates capitalism's protean capacity for creating new products and markets where ne existed before-and how this, rather than scientific plausibility, goes a long way toward explaining private umbilical cord blood banks and retail genetics. Drawing on the latest findings from leading scientists, social scientists, and political analysts, she critically examines four possible hypotheses driving our Me Medicine moment: a growing sense of threat; a wave of patient narcissism; corporate interests driving new niche markets; and the dominance of personal choice as a cultural value. She concludes with insights from political theory that emphasize a conception of the commons and the steps we can take to restore its value to modern biotechlogy.
Donna Dickenson is emeritus professor of medical ethics and humanities at the University of London and research associate at the Centre for Health, Law, and Emerging Technologies at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Body Shopping: Converting Body Parts to Profit, and has won the prestigious International Spinoza Lens award for her contribution to public debate on ethics.