Between hype and hope: What is really at stake with personalized medicine?

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 19 (3):423-430 (2016)

Abstract

Over the last decade, personalized medicine has become a buzz word, which covers a broad spectrum of meanings and generates many different opinions. The purpose of this article is to achieve a better understanding of the reasons why personalized medicine gives rise to such conflicting opinions. We show that a major issue of personalized medicine is the gap existing between its claims and its reality. We then present and analyze different possible reasons for this gap. We propose an hypothesis inspired by the Windelband’s distinction between nomothetic and idiographic methodology. We argue that the fuzzy situation of personalized medicine results from a mix between idiographic claims and nomothetic methodological procedures. Hence we suggest that the current quandary about personalized medicine cannot be solved without getting involved in a discussion about the complex epistemological and methodological status of medicine. To conclude, we show that the Gadamer’s view of medicine as a dialogical process can be fruitfully used and reveals that personalization is not a theoretical task, but a practical one, which takes place within the clinical encounter.

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