The “We” in the “Me”: Solidarity and Health Care in the Era of Personalized Medicine

Science, Technology, and Human Values 43 (1):21-44 (2018)
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Abstract

This article challenges a key tacit assumption underpinning legal and ethical instruments in health care, namely, that people are ideally bounded, independent, and often also strategically rational individuals. Such an understanding of personhood has been criticized within feminist and other critical scholarship as being unfit to capture the deeply relational nature of human beings. In the field of medicine, however, it also causes tangible problems. I propose that a solidarity-based perspective entails a relational approach and as such helps to formulate new solutions to complex ethical and regulatory questions, ranging from caring for people at the end of their lives to improving policies for organ donation and better governance of health data. It also underscores the importance of universal health care. Although a solidarity-based perspective does not require health to be seen as an individually enforceable right, it does influence our understanding of individual rights: it draws attention to how their meaning is shaped by shared social practices. I conclude by arguing that, in light of current pressures for medicine to become more personalized, using a relational understanding of personhood to shape policies and practices is a much needed endeavor.

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