Tensions and Opportunities in Convergence: Shifting Concepts of Disease in Emerging Molecular Medicine
Nanoethics 2009 December; 3(3): 243-255
The convergence of biomedical sciences with nanotechnology as well as ICT has created a new wave of biomedical technologies, resulting in visions of a 'molecular medicine'. Since novel technologies tend to shift concepts of disease and health, this paper investigates how the emerging field of molecular medicine may shift the meaning of 'disease' as well as the boundary between health and disease. It gives a brief overview of the development towards and the often very speculative visions of molecular medicine. Subsequently three views of disease often used in the philosophy of medicine are briefly discussed: the ontological or neo-ontological, the physiological and the normative/holistic concepts of disease. Against this background two tendencies in the field of molecular medicine are highlighted: (1) the use of a cascade model of disease and (2) the notion of disease as a deviation from an individual pattern of functioning. It becomes clear that molecular medicine pulls conceptualizations of disease and health in several, partly opposed directions. However, the resulting tensions may also offer opportunities to steer the future of medicine in more desirable directions.
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