Consumer Medicine

image of Consumer Medicine

The contributions in this book all address an important area relating to the delivery of medical services, namely the development of consumer medicine. The changing dynamics of consumer medicine are explored through two perspectives: genetic self-testing and cross-border medical treatment. Both genetic self-testing and cross-border medical treatment offer a number of opportunities, both for producers and consumers of goods and services. At the same time, however, a number of important questions arise as to the limits and regulations that should be in place to protect consumers and patients, and assure that the products and services that are being offered are of good quality and do not offer false or misleading information as to their efficacy or significance in helping patients and consumers. The role of the state and supra-national organizations is by no means self-evident within this changing environment in that on the one hand, this process has been supported by these same authorities, and on the other hand, they are also trying to control and limit the extent to which it develops and undermines their sovereignty. This dual role has created tensions between the development of consumer medicine and the consequences that authorities must deal with as a result of this development.



Introduction: Consumer Medicine – From Passive Patients to Active Consumers

The chapters in this book all address an important area relating to the delivery of medical services, namely the development of consumer medicine. The chapters have come about from presentations that have taken place in two separate meetings; one on genetic self-testing, and the other on "medical tourism" or cross-border medical treatment. These topics, although somewhat different, can be grouped under the rubric of consumer medicine in that increasingly the relationship between the patient and various products and services is mediated through market mechanisms relating to consumption and advertisement, as opposed to the physician alone. This shift in power relations and roles between actors has brought about not only new opportunities for companies seeking to market and sell their new products, but also ethical challenges in the way these activities and some of their consequences can, and should, be governed and regulated. This is not an easy task since the markets for many medical products and services have become transnational, challenging the traditional notion that governments operate in relation to geographical boundaries and have increasingly become preoccupied with "zones formed through the circulation of technical practices and devices" (Barry 2001, 3).This is by no means a new trend, but a number of new features can be identified which have increased the effectiveness of marketing products to consumers, as well as made their consumption easier and more attractive. In this introductory chapter, I would like to highlight some of the important strands and themes which have emerged out of our meetings, discussions and the subsequent texts in relation to genetic selftesting and cross-border medical treatment.


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