Legal expert Huber (The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy, 2006, etc.) contends that government intervention in the science and practice of medicine is impeding progress.
The author claims that the advancement of molecular biology—the ability to decipher the genetic codes of bacteria and viruses, as well as of their human victims—allows for the practice of a new kind of individualized medicine. Cheap home-diagnostic test devices now allow patients to collect their own medical information just as diabetics routinely regulate their own insulin dosages. In the not-too-distant future, it should be possible to develop specifically tailored medical protocols based on an individual’s unique genome. “[M]agic-bullet science,” writes the author, can become a reality if regulatory agencies do not interfere and people are allowed to take active control of their personal treatments. Huber makes the point that the kind of broad-based, double-blind experiments currently required before a drug can be marketed will become obsolete as risk factors for particular treatments can be individualized on the basis of genetic information. He predicts a future in which “the power to read biochemical text” will be democratized and information will be deposited on the digital cloud. Patients will be directly connected “with the biochemists and doctors who design clever fixes and patches and find new ways to use them as well.” Huber, an opponent of Obamacare, suggests that past public policy initiatives regarding vaccination and sanitation have served their purposes and that “collective solutions” to medical issues are becoming counterproductive. The “triumphs of socialized medicine are behind us now,” he writes.
Huber’s political polemics detract somewhat from an otherwise intriguing discussion.