Emerging technologies and the ‘too much medicine’ problem

Ainsley J. Newson1, Wendy Rogers2, Stacy Carter1

1 Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, NSW 2006
2 Centre for Agency, Values and Ethics and Australian School of Advanced Medicine, Macquarie University, NSW 2109

Emerging technologies such as genomics, biomarkers and imaging modalities are increasingly being implemented into healthcare. This is often an appropriate course of action. Genomic testing, for example is being used to increase diagnostic yield in groups living with rare disease. Alongside this, however, scholars are highlighting medicine’s increasing tendency to overdiagnose and overtreat. This is driven at least in part by enthusiasm among policymakers and the public for initiatives including screening for disease risk and personalised and precision medicine. Without appropriate reflection, these technologies may contribute to the problem of ‘too much medicine’; including by unnecessarily widening definitions of disease or ‘pre-disease’. In this workshop, we will argue that considerations of ‘too much medicine’ and overdiagnosis need to be made more visible in the planning and delivery of emerging technologies in health care. The workshop will comprise presentations from three academics who work in theoretical and empirical bioethics. The presenters will consider concepts such as: the balance of benefits and harm, the technological imperative, technology-led demand, our natural inclination to be ‘information seekers’, public communication, and some of the vulnerabilities created by these technologies. The workshop will advocate for critical implementation of these technologies in healthcare, including evaluation of possible concepts that can usefully inform ethical debate.


Ainsley Newson is Associate Professor of Bioethics at the University of Sydney. She undertakes research on a range of ethical issues arising from emerging technologies in health care; focusing on genetics, genomics and human reproduction. Ainsley has degrees in science and law and a PhD in Bioethics. She also leads the Sydney Bioethics Program of postgraduate coursework.

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