What German experts expect from individualized medicine: problems of uncertainty and future complication in physician-patient interaction

Clinical Ethics 7 (2):86-93 (2012)


‘Individualized medicine’ is an emerging paradigm in clinical life science research. We conducted a socio-empirical interview study in a leading German clinical research group, aiming at implementing ‘individualized medicine’ of colorectal cancer. The goal was to investigate moral and social issues related to physician–patient interaction and clinical care, and to identify the points raised, supported and rejected by the physicians and researchers. Up to now there has been only limited insight into how experts dedicated to individualized medicine view its problems. Interviews with researchers and clinicians (n= 19) were based on a prestructured questionnaire. The content analysis revealed a broad spectrum of opinions. Major findings were (a) disappointments with the limits of the current therapy regimen and clinical practice; (b) problematic impacts on physician–patient relationship; and (c) an informed consent procedure which is mainly based on paternalistic assumptions. According to our analysis, major problems will be uncertainties related to the biomarker's sensitivity and specificity, and the identification of ‘non-responders’. However, the findings also indicate that experts expect evidence-based medicine to replace decisions based on gut feeling or hierarchical structures

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