Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Vegter, M.W.
Towards precision medicine; a new biomedical cosmology
(2018) Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, pp. 1-14. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1007/s11019-018-9828-z

Precision Medicine has become a common label for data-intensive and patient-driven biomedical research. Its intended future is reflected in endeavours such as the Precision Medicine Initiative in the USA. This article addresses the question whether it is possible to discern a new ‘medical cosmology’ in Precision Medicine, a concept that was developed by Nicholas Jewson to describe comprehensive transformations involving various dimensions of biomedical knowledge and practice, such as vocabularies, the roles of patients and physicians and the conceptualisation of disease. Subsequently, I will elaborate my assessment of the features of Precision Medicine with the help of Michel Foucault, by exploring how precision medicine involves a transformation along three axes: the axis of biomedical knowledge, of biomedical power and of the patient as a self. Patients are encouraged to become the managers of their own health status, while the medical domain is reframed as a data-sharing community, characterised by changing power relationships between providers and patients, producers and consumers. While the emerging Precision Medicine cosmology may surpass existing knowledge frameworks; it obscures previous traditions and reduces research-subjects to mere data. This in turn, means that the individual is both subjected to the neoliberal demand to share personal information, and at the same time has acquired the positive ‘right’ to become a member of the data-sharing community. The subject has to constantly negotiate the meaning of his or her data, which can either enable self-expression, or function as a commanding Superego. © 2018 The Author(s)

Author Keywords
Big data; Foucault; Medical cosmology; Participatory medicine; Precision medicine; ’All-of-Us’ research program

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