Open medicine

A story on Open Medicine (as in Open Source) from BBC:

Britain’s Sir John Sulston says that profits are taking precedence over the needs of patients, particularly in the developing world. ….

Sir John shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for medicine for his work on the genetics controlling cell division.

He is well known for his commitment to public medicine and his opposition to the privatisation of scientific information.

Eight years ago he led the fight to keep the data being derived from the Human Genome Project open and free to any scientist who wanted to use it.

If there is any field where free access to and use of information is obviously of value, medicine is it.

And if there is one question that is important in health care, it is this: Do we want a medical system that is primarily aimed at profit, or service? Of course, it is not necessarily one or the other, but the way it functions globally today, it is far too often narrowly in the service of profit, at the expense of people.

It is also good to keep in mind that what has the most substantial positive effect on health for groups and individuals is the quite simple things: Clean water. Healthy food. Enough sleep to feel rested. Basic exercise. Psychological well-being. And basic medicines and surgery for the most common diseases and problems.

And that too shows how skewed the current medical field is today, with an enormous amount of resources spent on research and treatment of illness that benefit only a few percent among the richest of the world’s population, while large number of people globally suffer from illnesses can easily be prevented and treated with simple means – if only resources were directed to it. And in some cases, if there was a free access to and use of current proprietary information.

Is it naive to imagine such a global medical system? One that is primarily in the service of people, and secundarily – if at all – in the service of profit? One where there is free access to and use of at least certain medical information that today is proprietary?

It is true that it could cause some resources to be taken out of the field, but since the richest would still have money and want health, there would still be profits in that form of research and in treatment of that population. That wouldn’t change. The difference is that the poorest would have a fair chance as well. They too could benefit from information that is currently proprietary.

And all that aside, as the software industry shows, there is money in open source, you just have to go about it differently.

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