Medical profiling and online medicine: the ethics of 'personalised healthcare' in a consumer age


Published 12/10/2010

Personalised heathcare cover
DNA kit


All the developments in medical profiling and online medicine considered in the report offer increased ‘personalisation’ to some extent. But many of the claims for more individualised diagnosis and treatment seem to be overstated and should be treated with caution at the present time. For example, commercial genetic profiling and body imaging have the potential to tailor healthcare to the individual, but that potential has yet to be fully realised.


All the developments considered by the report can lend themselves to the provision of healthcare as a consumer good. We think choice is often a good thing, but to work effectively in healthcare it needs to be accompanied by proper information and advice. We also need to find ways of balancing individual choice with the principle of social solidarity – i.e. that we should share the responsibility to help people in need.


The developments considered in this report can lead to new obligations and expectations for the individuals who use them. For example, online personal health records systems can place new demands on individuals to check their records and ensure their security.

We think responsibility for handling new risks associated with these developments should be placed in the hands of those best placed to manage it. In some cases this is the state, in some cases the medical professional, and in other cases the individual. Each case needs to be considered on its own merits.