Molecular diagnostics: towards a realistic form of ethical Technology Assessment

Molecular diagnostics promises to make diseases visible long before they manifest themselves with clear symptoms level. Furthermore, this new technology promises to deliver its results anywhere, whenever wanted, fast and cheap. If these promises come true, a rapid proliferation of self-tests is to be expected.

This PhD project aims to investigate the ethical implications and aspects of molecular diagnostics. However, technical and scientific promises have often proven to be over-optimistic. For this reason, this ethical research will start from the ‘realistic’ assumption that molecular self-tests too will in practice generate false, uncertain, ambiguous or impractical results. The overarching research question is: how to integrate this kind of sober realism into ethical Technology Assessment in general, and into the assessment of molecular diagnostics in particular? Sub-questions will be: why do many scientists and technologists over-promise? To what extent are they forced to do so by their institutional environment? How to be more responsible in promising (or warning against) future technologies? How to improve the process of technology development with respect to raising future expectations?