Precision Medicine: Legal and Ethical Challenges Conference Report
John Liddicoat, Jeffrey M Skopek, and Kathleen Liddell
On 7 and 8 April 2016, the Centre for Medical Ethics & Law (University of Hong Kong) together with the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences (University of Cambridge) hosted a conference at the University of Hong Kong on the legal and ethical challenges facing the realisation of precision medicine.
The aim of precision medicine is to revolutionise disease treatment and prevention by utilising personal variation in factors such as an individual’s genetic information, biochemistry, environment and lifestyle. Genomic data, for example, can be used to determine predispositions to particular diseases, predict the efficacy and safety of different treatment options, and help develop drugs that are targeted to the causes of diseases rather than their clinical manifestations. In these and other ways, scientific and technological advances have the potential to bring about an unprecedented tailoring of health care to the individual characteristics of patients.
In order to realise the potential of precision medicine, however, we must rethink components of the legal and ethical foundation on which it will be built. The reason for this is that our current legal and ethical frameworks were built with a very different generation of medical products and practices in mind. At this conference, world experts convened to identify and explore the challenges that precision medicine brings to the fore.
Part I of this report provides a summary of the presentations that were given at the conference. Section A of this part focuses on challenges in the implementation of precision medicine and is divided into two categories: implementation at the level of health care systems, and implementation at the level of clinical treatment. Section B addresses challenges in the development of precision medicine and is likewise divided into two categories: development at the level of foundational research, and development at the level of translational medicine.
Part II categorises and summarises the key challenges that were explored in the roundtable discussions that followed the four categories of presentations, as well as some of the broader questions that emerged out of the conference.