Me Medicine vs. We Medicine by Donna Dickenson
Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good

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While not startling, this multiple examples of how genetic abnormalities are far from the Mendelian “one gene one trait” concept that most of us learned in high school biology.
-NY Journal of Books


Personalized healthcare—or what the award-winning author Donna Dickenson calls “Me Medicine”—is radically transforming our longstanding, “one-size-fits-all” model. Technologies such as direct-to-consumer genetic testing, pharmacogenetics in cancer care, private umbilical cord blood banking, and neurocognitive enhancement claim to cater to an individual’s specific biological character. In some cases, these technologies 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 collective health suffered as a result?

In her balanced, provocative analysis, Dickenson examines the economic and political factors fueling the Me Medicine phenomenon and explores whether it may, over time, damage our individual health as well as our collective well-being. Historically, it is the measures of “We Medicine,” such as vaccination, that have radically extended our life spans, but Dickenson argues that we’ve lost sight of that truth in our enthusiasm for “Me Medicine.” She explores how personalized medicine illustrates capitalism’s flexible talent for creating new products and markets where none existed before—and how this, rather than scientific plausibility, goes a long way toward explaining private umbilical cord blood banking and retail genetics.

Drawing on up-to-date scientific evidence, Dickenson critically examines four possible hypotheses driving our Me Medicine moment: a growing sense of threat in our society; a wave of patient narcissism; corporate interests in creating new niche markets; and the dominance of personal choice as a cultural value. She concludes with important and original insights from political theory emphasizing a conception of the commons and the steps we can take to restore its value to modern biotechnology.

About Donna Dickenson

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Donna Dickenson is professor emerita of medical ethics at the University of London and research associate at the Centre for Health, Law, and Emerging Technologies at the University of Oxford. Her book Body Shopping: Converting Body Parts to Profit was called "essential reading" by The Lancet and "ambitious and thoughtful" by New Scientist, and Philip Pullman wrote, "The story of how we have allowed private corporations to patent genes, to stockpile human tissue, and in short to make a profit out of what many people feel ought to be common goods is a shocking one. No one with any interest at all in medicine and society should miss this." In 2006, Dickenson was awarded the prestigious International Spinoza Lens award -- other recipients have included Edward Said, Michael Walzer, and Richard Sennett -- for her contribution to public debate on ethics, becoming the first and only woman to win the prize.
Published May 14, 2013 by Columbia University Press. 296 pages
Genres: Computers & Technology, Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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NY Journal of Books

Reviewed by Christopher M. Doran on Jun 18 2013

While not startling, this multiple examples of how genetic abnormalities are far from the Mendelian “one gene one trait” concept that most of us learned in high school biology.

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