Bioethics Forum

Medicine Takes it Personally. Possibilities and Limits of Individualisation of Diagnosis and Therapy

Bayerische Vertretung in Berlin, Halle Bayern, Behrenstraße 21–22, 10117 Berlin


People react differently to drugs, even if their efficacy and safety have been previously demonstrated in clinical trials. “Personalised” medicine aims to identify these differences and to take them into account in the treatment and prognosis of diseases. In this way, therapies are to be adapted to the individual, partly genetically determined characteristics of the disease and effective treatment made possible. Expectations are high. Patients hope for health benefits from customised medicine; physicians and health insurance companies expect to avoid the administration of unfitting medication and to reduce side effects and costs through diagnostic testing.

But the concept of individualised medicine is not without controversy:

  • What can be the benefits of a therapy based on molecular diagnostic testing?
  • Are the costs of such individualisation justified, and who should bear them?
  • What are the pharmaceutical industry’s motivations for developing personalised medicine?

In his lecture, Prof. Dr. Friedemann Horn from the Institute for Clinical Immunology and Transfusion Medicine at the University of Leipzig will introduce the scientific and medical fundamentals and the technical possibilities of personalised medicine. Prof. Dr. Norbert W. Paul from the Institute for History, Theory and Ethics of Medicine at the University of Mayence will present the ethical issues related to the topic and lead into the panel discussion. The panel discussion brings together Prof. Horn and Prof. Paul with the Cologne-based author and journalist Sibylle Herbert, who has written numerous articles on the patient perspective of personalised medicine, and Prof. Dr. Klaus Lindpaintner from Roche Molecular Medicine Laboratories in Basel, who will contribute from the perspective of a pharmaceutical company. Prof. Dr. Regine Kollek, member of the German Ethics Council, will chair the event.