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UK Bioethics Council to Review Personalized Medicine Policies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The United Kingdom’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics is starting a one-year study that will look into the ethical issues that have begun percolating as personalized medical technologies have rapidly advanced, NCB said this week. 
 
The NCB has created a working party with varying backgrounds in medicine, law, philosophy, and sociology, which will gather evidence and will hold a public consultation in the spring of 2009 to bring together a wide range of views on issues raised by personalized medicine. NCB expects to issue a report with recommendations for policy and practice in early 2010.
 
The launch of this program coincides with the release of the Healthcare Commission’s annual report on the performance of the National Health Service, NCB said. 
 
Personalized genomics is at the center of the ethical issues that the council wants to review, but the working group also will look into medical imaging technologies such as CT or MRI scans, as well as the field of telemedicine.
 
“Imagine a future situation where a young woman has her entire genome sequenced and this tells her that she has an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life,” University of Oxford professor and NCB council member Christopher Hood said in a statement.
 
“Would she have been better off not knowing? How might it affect her insurance policies, and might it increase the burden on the NHS?,” Hood inquired. “We will be advising policy makers on the impact of this kind of technology and how it might be regulated,” he said.
 
Low-cost genome sequencing, which is now on the horizon, could lead to an age of unique problems, Hood suggested. He said that companies “may exaggerate the risk of disease to cover themselves against possible legal action, which may cause unnecessary anxiety and an increased burden on NHS services as people follow-up,” Hood continued.
 
He also said that confidentiality issues and who will have access to personal genetic information that come from genetic tests also are important issues the working group will discuss.

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