Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Incorporating Personalized Medicine Into Healthcare

Kyle B Brothers; Mark A Rothstein


Personalized Medicine. 2015;12(1):43-51. 

In This Article

Conclusion & Future Perspective

As we enter the second decade following the Human Genome Project, we see a need to expand the scope of work on the ethical, legal and social challenges raised by personalized medicine to account for its growing clinical applications throughout the healthcare system. Fortunately, the fields of bioethics and clinical ethics have rich traditions of addressing issues such as health disparities, patient privacy and the physician–patient relationship. We believe it will be extraordinarily productive to expand the community of scholars working on the ethical, legal and social implications of genomic medicine to include new types of expertise. In particular, those who have worked on health policy and clinical ethics issues unrelated to genomics have much to contribute to ethical, legal and social implications scholarship. Collaborations with health economists, quality experts and implementation scientists could also be extraordinarily productive.

The issues this expanded community of ethical, legal and social implications scholars could be called upon to address are vast; the two issues we have identified are just a starting point. We anticipate, for example, that personal responsibility for health will be an increasingly important issue in healthcare in the coming years. As we observed earlier, the personalized medicine movement has demonstrated a strong interest in empowering patients to take responsibility for their health. We know, however, that the concept of individual responsibility for health is indelibly linked with debates in many countries over the best approaches to funding healthcare.[52] This interplay between personalized medicine, individual responsibility and ideologies surrounding the funding of healthcare is just one topic of importance that is likely to benefit from interdisciplinary examination in the near future. In order to best address these issues and others, the next decade in personalized medicine should be a time of collaborative, proactive work to anticipate additional challenges and find collaborative ways to improve patient care that are responsive to ethical, legal and social concerns.