The last session concentrated on PM’s implementation and consequences.

Sunday, 18. September 2011


Matthias Fügi

Saturday, September 18, 201

Different speakers present the risk assessment in private insurance, legal aspects and ethical challenges. To maximise benefits and minimise risks on society and individual level is a principle of ethics in PM.

Dr. Effy Vayena points out that we might find ourselves confronted with genetic discrimination, false reassurance or misplaced anxiety. Is research participation a social responsibility, or even a moral duty? And what needs and can be done about the 10/90 health research gap (only 10% of worldwide expenditure on health research and development is devoted to the problems that primarily affect the poorest 90% of the world’s population), genetic exceptionalism (everything dealing with “gene” seems to have a special perception in the society) and conflicts of ethical principles?

Prof. Gerd Folkers wraps up the whole conference: He sees the patient as an actor and not sufferer as the origin of the word might suggest. He envisions a maximum overlay or full integration of clinical research and clinical care. And he asks if we need a differentiated definition of ethics in PM due to different cultural heritage and concepts of the world? I give the question to our readers. What ethical values need to be respected everywhere and where – if at all – do we need to adapt ethics to a certain socio-cultural environment?

The round table at the very end of the conference brings together individuals from politics and media. The predominant topic is costs. If PM is applied more and more, will it lead to an explosion of health costs or might we even be able to benefit also financially from PM? The fronts are hardened but nevertheless we can follow interesting discussions. Data protection is mentioned again as well, and here I think each and everybody has to ask themselves, how much data protection they need, and how that could best be implemented.

I enjoyed blogging about the Academia Engelberg conference 2011 very much and I think we could initiate a discussion and solution finding process that is dearly needed in order for everyone to benefit as much as possible from Personalised Medicine.

Thursday afternoon, 15th September

The round table discussion in the afternoon brought together young scientists from YES (Youth Encounter on Sustainability) and the Swiss Study Foundation. People from diverse cultural backgrounds presented their view on Personalised Medicine (PM) and its implementation.

Speakers presented the impact PM has or will have in their respective countries of origin. Be it India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan or Brazil, the bottom-line is that these developing and emerging countries have to first build up a solid health care infrastructure before they can think of PM. Priorities in these countries are different.

In Pakistan, 20 million people have no access to health care. This brings up a question I touched in one of my first blogs: Is PM only an issue for the developed world? We should not forget that – today – PM has no impact whatsoever on half of the people in the world. The north-south, or west-east dichotomy is very much a fact in this field. What to do about it? Shall we cease to strive for highly PM in privileged countries such as Switzerland as long as people in other countries are dying because they lack even the most basic health care? PM is luxury but it’s also happening today – we won’t be able to stop this development even if we wanted to.

What do you, dear followers, think about this highly controversial topic? Write a comment!

After the talks that presented also the Islamic point of view, three students from the Swiss Study Foundation made detailed statements on “Impact on diagnostic and treatment”, “Disposition and Awareness” and Ethics and Social Aspects” of PM.

A lively discussion led by Prof. Monard and the young scientists form YES and the Swiss Study Foundation followed the presentations. We should not forget that PM also means that medicine has become personal! Each and everyone can take action and contribute to medicine. In this spirit, I think it is worth to make efforts in the direction of PM, even in countries where priorities are different.

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The ETH Board is responsible for the strategic leadership of the ETH domain and assumes the supervision of its institutions. Its close relationship with the ETH Council has contributed to the successful continuation of Academia Engelberg Foundation since 2000.

The Foundation promotes research into the connecting human fundamentals of science. Academia Engelberg Foundation and the Foundation for Basic Research in Human Sciences have entered into a cooperation agreement for the period 2011 to 2015.

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