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【Beijing Forum 2010】New Paradigms in Medicine

Peking University, Nov. 9, 2010: On the afternoon of Nov. 6, Session 5 of the panel session of “Health for All: Conscience and Commitment of Medicine” of Beijing Forum 2010 was held at Yifu Teaching Building, Peking University Health Science Center. 

 

Group photo (PKU News/Gao Lei)

 

As “medical humanity” has been recognized by the society, the concept itself is relatively new and leaves much room for debate. Professors from around the world introduced their work in related areas and talked about medical humanity from their own perspectives. Prof. Zhang Daqing, Director of the Peking University Institute for Medical Humanities, briefly gave a welcoming speech.

 

Medicine is not merely dependent on science and technology but affected by many other social factors such as education, population, geography, morality, and environment. The world is changing at a rapid rate, giving rise to many new paradigms in medicine concerning medical humanity. Many scholars are devoting themselves in these frontiers.

 

William Granzig, a clinical professor at the Department of OB-GYN, University of Florida Medical School, introduced a new term of “eco-sexology,” which is a study of the sexological relationship of human beings and society. Prof. Granzig believed that “the social environment defines what we are and what we do, so it’s never a simple job to educate people how to treat the sexual reality, while religious background is way too important to neglect.”

 

Eco-sexology also has a lot to do with how to utilize the rapidity of change in social customs and ecological, emotional, and intellectual environments to build a better world. Change is inevitable and some factors have influenced people’s sexual behavior. “For instance, pills to control fertility set woman free from man to have birth control of their own.” The basic rule should be to understand problems in a social context.

 

Nikolas Rose, Martin White Professor of Sociology and Director of the LSE‘s BIOS Center, gave his report about problems and perils of another new paradigm for health care: personalized medicine. It means tailoring medicine to the demand of each individual instead of one size for all; it means empowering patients to have control for medicine just like consumers in the market instead of holding a patient as a passive case; it means whole person medicine instead of regarding a patient as “the liver in bed 13;” it means preventing diseases instead of treating patients after an illness occurs. Many leading institutes and pharmaceutical companies have foreseen this new era with the core value of “three Ps”: personalized, predictive, and preventative.

 

Prof. Rose went on to analyze one of the main inspirations of the illusion of personalized medicine, genetic profiling, which as Leroy Hood prophesied in 1992 is able to transform ways of dealing human diseases. Although personalized genetic profiling seems promising in tailoring medical treatment to each individual and predicting or even preventing certain disease, there are risks and perils involved. The prediction of the risks of having certain disease based on personal genomics is lacking in validity and reliability, not to mention potential costs added to the burden of medical treatment. Even if the prediction is true and accurate, Prof. Rose doubted that it will be better if people know earlier about what the future might hold for them, since uncertainty can cause anxiousness or even make people terrified. Prof. Rose also pointed out that personal genetic profiling might pose certain threats upon social morality, in that it might shift the responsibility of disease from social medicine to individuals, which was unfair since many diseases cannot be solely explained by genomics but a collection of factors such as environment and stress of work. For example, only 20 percent of breast cancer can be accounted for by heredity.

 

Other topics of the panel session included the humanizing power in medical history, empathy in medical humanity, and cultural differences between China and the West. The session concluded after a discussion.

 

 

Extended Reading:

PKU News (Chinese): Cross-cultural Exchange of Medicine and Humanities, and Reform of Healthcare System

【Beijing Forum 2010】Interview with Nikolas Rose: Promises, Problems, and Perils

 

Reported by: Chen Long

Edited by: Jacques