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Nanomedicine (Lond). 2007 Aug;2(4):511-21.

Upstream ethics in nanomedicine: a call for research.

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  • 1University of South Carolina, Department of Philosophy and Center for Bioethics, Columbia, SC 29208, USA. khushfg@gwm.sc.edu

Abstract

Insufficient attention has been given to ethical and social issues integral to nanomedicine. Part of this deficiency arises from some mistaken assumptions about ethics. I consider five of these: that ethics is only important when a technology is mature (reactionary ethics); that there are no new ethical issues in nanomedicine; that ethics involves a kind of risk assessment that is already being conducted; that ethics is a hindrance to science; and that ethics is a luxury for an ideal world. After critically assessing these assumptions, I consider two types of nanomedicine and the kinds of ethical issues they raise. Type 1 nanomedicine is of an incremental kind, and proper ethical assessment of the issues must involve a fine grained study of the specific application. Type 2 nanomedicine is of a more foundational, programmatic kind. Ethical issues raised by these more programmatic developments include challenges integral to formation of interdisciplinary teams; issues related to intellectual property, authorship and publication; development of informed consent and confidentiality protections associated with new data sets; future challenges to the clinician-patient relation and personalized medicine. Ethical analysis should also consider some of the reductionistic implications of engineering models and metaphors integral to nanomedicine, as well as uses of nanomedicine for non-medical purposes, such as human enhancement. Many of these challenges concern rate-limiting steps in nanomedical research, and they should be prominently featured in developing nanomedicine initiatives.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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