Volume 17, No. 2, 2021 Special issue: Philosophy of medicine

  • Introduction
    Saana Jukola and Anke Bueter (guest editors)

    Philosophy of medicine 1 | Pages: (SI1)5-8 | Abstract

    This article is an introduction to the special issue on philosophy of medicine. Philosophy of medicine is a field that has flourished in the last couple of decades and has become increasingly institutionalized. The introduction begins with a brief overview of some of the most central recent developments in the field. It then describes the six articles that comprise this issue.”.
  • Diagnostic Justice: Testing for Covid-19
    Ashley Graham Kennedy and Bryan Cwik 

    Philosophy of medicine 2 | Pages: (SI2)5-25 | Abstract | DOI: 10.31820/ejap.17.3.1

    Diagnostic testing can be used for many purposes, including testing to facilitate the clinical care of individual patients, testing as an inclusion criterion for clinical trial participation, and both passive and active surveillance testing of the general population in order to facilitate public health outcomes, such as the containment or mitigation of an infectious disease. As such, diagnostic testing presents us with ethical questions that are, in part, already addressed in the literatures on clinical care as well as clinical research (such as the rights of patients to refuse testing or treatment in the clinical setting or the rights of participants in randomized controlled trials to withdraw from the trial at any time). However, diagnostic testing, for the purpose of disease surveillance also raises ethical issues that we do not encounter in these settings, and thus have not been much discussed. In this paper we will be concerned with the similarities and differences between the ethical considerations in these three domains: clinical care, clinical research, and public health, as they relate to diagnostic testing specifically. Via an examination of the COVID-19 case we will show how an appeal to the concept of diagnostic justice helps us to make sense of the (at times competing) ethical considerations in these three domains.
  • Adapt to Translate – Adaptive Clinical Trials and Biomedical Innovation
    Daria Jadreškić 

    Philosophy of medicine 3 | Pages: (SI3)5-24 | Abstract | DOI: 10.31820/ejap.17.3.2

    The article presents the advantages and limitations of adaptive clinical trials for assessing the effectiveness of medical interventions and specifies the conditions that contributed to their development and implementation in clinical practice. I advance two arguments by discussing different cases of adaptive trials. The normative argument is that responsible adaptation should be taken seriously as a new way of doing clinical research insofar as a valid justification, sufficient understanding, and adequate operational conditions are provided. The second argument is historical. The development of adaptive trials can be related to lessons learned from research in cases of urgency and to the decades-long efforts to end the productivity crisis of pharmaceutical research, which led to the emergence of translational, personalized, and, recently, precision medicine movements.
  • Wrongful Medicalization and Epistemic Injustice in Psychiatry: The Case of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
    Anne-Marie Gagné-Julien 

    Philosophy of medicine 4 | Pages: (SI4)5-36 | Abstract | DOI: 10.31820/ejap.17.3.3

    In this paper, my goal is to use an epistemic injustice framework to extend an existing normative analysis of over-medicalization to psychiatry and thus draw attention to overlooked injustices. Kaczmarek (2019) has developed a promising bioethical and pragmatic approach to over-medicalization, which consists of four guiding questions covering issues related to the harms and benefits of medicalization. In a nutshell, if we answer “yes” to all proposed questions, then it is a case of over-medicalization. Building on an epistemic injustice framework, I will argue that Kaczmarek’s proposal lacks guidance concerning the procedures through which we are to answer the four questions, and I will import the conceptual resources of epistemic injustice to guide our thinking on these issues. This will lead me to defend more inclusive decision-making procedures regarding medicalization in the DSM. Kaczmarek’s account complemented with an epistemic injustice framework can help us achieve better forms of medicalization. I will then use a contested case of medicalization, the creation of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) in the DSM-5 to illustrate how the epistemic injustice framework can help to shed light on these issues and to show its relevance to distinguish good and bad forms of medicalization.
  • Medicalization of Sexual Desire
    Jacob Stegenga 

    Philosophy of medicine 5 | Pages: (SI5)5-34 | Abstract | DOI: 10.31820/ejap.17.3.4

    Medicalisation is a social phenomenon in which conditions that were once under legal, religious, personal or other jurisdictions are brought into the domain of medical authority. Low sexual desire in females has been medicalised, pathologised as a disease, and intervened upon with a range of pharmaceuticals. There are two polarised positions on the medicalisation of low female sexual desire: I call these the mainstream view and the critical view. I assess the central arguments for both positions. Dividing the two positions are opposing models of the aetiology of low female sexual desire. I conclude by suggesting that the balance of arguments supports a modest defence of the critical view regarding the medicalisation of low female sexual desire.
  • When a Hybrid Account of Disorder is not Enough: The Case of Gender Dysphoria
    Kathleen Murphy-Hollies 

    Philosophy of medicine 6 | Pages: (SI6)5-26 | Abstract | DOI: 10.31820/ejap.17.3.5

    In this paper I discuss Wakefield’s account of mental disorder as applied to the case of gender dysphoria (GD). I argue that despite being a hybrid account which brings together a naturalistic and normative element in order to avoid pathologising normal or expectable states, the theory alone is still not extensive enough to answer the question of whether GD should be classed as a disorder. I suggest that the hybrid account falls short in adequately investigating how the harm and dysfunction in cases of GD relate to each other, and secondly that the question of why some dysfunction is disvalued and experienced as harmful requires further consideration. This masks further analysis of patients’ distress and results in an unhelpful overlap of two types of clinical patients within a diagnosis of GD; those with gender-role dysphoria and those with sex dysphoria. These two conditions can be associated with different harms and dysfunctions but Wakefield’s hybrid account does not have the tools to recognise this. This misunderstanding of the sources of dysfunction and harm in those diagnosed with GD risks ineffective treatment for patients and reinforcing the very same prejudiced norms which were conducive to the state being experienced as harmful in the first place. The theory needs to engage, to a surprising and so far unacknowledged extent, with sociological concepts such as the categorisation and stratification of groups in society and the mechanism of systemic oppression, in order to answer the question of whether GD should be classed as a mental disorder. Only then can it successfully avoid pathologising normal or expectable states, as has been seen in past ‘illnesses’ such as homosexuality and ‘drapetomania’.
    • The Quantitative Problem for Theories of Dysfunction and Disease
      Thomas Schramme 

      Philosophy of medicine 7 | Pages: (SI7)5-30 | Abstract | DOI: 10.31820/ejap.17.3.6

      Many biological functions allow for grades. For example, secretion of a specific hormone in an organism can be on a higher or lower level, compared to the same organism at another occasion or compared to other organisms. What levels of functioning constitute instances of dysfunction; where should we draw the line? This is the quantitative problem for theories of dysfunction and disease. I aim to defend a version of biological theories of dysfunction to tackle this problem. However, I will also allow evaluative considerations to enter into a theory of disease. My argument is based on a distinction between a biological and a clinical perspective. Disease, according to my reasoning, is restricted to instances that fall within the boundaries of biological dysfunctions. Responding to the quantitative problem does not require arbitrary decisions or social value-judgements. Hence, I argue for a non-arbitrary, fact-based method to address the quantitative problem. Still, not all biological dysfunctions are instances of disease. Adding a clinical perspective allows us to prevent the potential over-inclusiveness of the biological perspective, because it restricts the boundaries of disease even further.