Precision Medicine and Big Data: The Application of an Ethics Framework for Big Data in Health and Research

Asian Bioethics Review 11 (3):275-288 (2019)
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As opposed to a ‘one size fits all’ approach, precision medicine uses relevant biological, medical, behavioural and environmental information about a person to further personalize their healthcare. This could mean better prediction of someone’s disease risk and more effective diagnosis and treatment if they have a condition. Big data allows for far more precision and tailoring than was ever before possible by linking together diverse datasets to reveal hitherto-unknown correlations and causal pathways. But it also raises ethical issues relating to the balancing of interests, viability of anonymization, familial and group implications, as well as genetic discrimination. This article analyses these issues in light of the values of public benefit, justice, harm minimization, transparency, engagement and reflexivity and applies the deliberative balancing approach found in theEthical Framework for Big Data in Health and Research to a case study on clinical genomic data sharing. Please refer to that article for an explanation of how this framework is to be used, including a full explanation of the key values involved and the balancing approach used in the case study at the end. Our discussion is meant to be of use to those involved in the practice as well as governance and oversight of precision medicine to address ethical concerns that arise in a coherent and systematic manner.

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G. Owen Schaefer
National University of Singapore