Thursday, April 30, 2009

QJM Paper Now Available

My paper "Towards a More Inclusive Vision of the Medical Sciences" is now available on the advance access site for QJM: An International Journal of Medicine. Here is the abstract:

Progress in the medical sciences is largely determined by two things: (i) the questions we ask, and (ii) how rigorously and vigorously we attempt to answer them. How do we know which questions are the right questions to ask, and thus the correct questions to spend our time and energies trying to answer? Such evaluative concerns bring into sharper focus the question—‘What is medicine for?’ The international study of rosuvastatin is important not simply because of the health benefits it may confer, but because it inspires a more robust and inclusive vision of the medical sciences. A vision which recognizes that the primary goal of medicine is to promote health, and that includes the health of ‘normal’ people as well as those with illness and disease. This inclusive vision of the medical sciences is a transformative one, it departs from the ‘disease-model’ approach which has dominated distinct areas of medical research for decades.

This paper intersects many of my current research interests- evolutionary biology, aging, and perfectionism. I believe Darwinian medicine challenges many of the assumptions of our current approach to medicine and health care. Rather than just strive to develop drugs that treat the proximate causes of mortality (e.g. cancer, heart disease, etc.) we should also try to gain a better understanding of the ultimate (that is evolutionary) causes of health and disease. This requires us to invest more resources and talent in tackling aging, and work towards developing drugs that intervene in the aging process itself rather than just treat the symptoms of aging.

Perfectionism inspires a more robust vision of human flourishing, one that transcends the "disease model" approach to the medical sciences. Treating disease is important. But it is also important to prevent disease, to provide humans with greater opportunities for health. Medicine that builds on the insights of evolutionary biology and biogerontology might accomplish this. And this is particularly important at this moment of our species' development because aging is now the leading cause of disease and death in the world. This is why I have argued that the aspiration to retard human aging is the most important neglected issue of our time.