Collecting Data

We’re talking about sharing personal data – that’s information about our bodies.

We are told to keep this personal information private – but what if that information could be used to help developed medicines and treatments?

It could be basic stuff like how tall we are, how much we weigh… or it could be information about how healthy we are and whether we’ve had any illnesses recently.

You see the idea is that if doctors and scientists share information they have about us, they could make better medicines and treatments.

It’s a massive job keeping everyone healthy and coming up with new medicines all the time. If doctors knew that 239 people were complaining about having a huge and embarrassing red spot on their noses, they might think they need to make more spot cream!

What if doctors also knew that all 239 people had cats?  They could link facts together to get a bigger picture, and perhaps make some helpful discoveries… like maybe it’s the cats causing the spots.

But we don’t go around telling random strangers our names or where we live so why is it suddenly OK for doctors to have this information?

Wouldn’t it be better if all this information was anonymous? Especially if we don’t know who’s actually looking at the information!

All that data can be valuable and could even be sold. Your body belongs to you and so does the information about it – you can’t go selling stuff that doesn’t belong to you in the first place!

But if the person buying the data is developing new medicines that can save thousands of lives, that makes it OK?

It’s a brain busting body bamboozler for sure!

Click here for more bioethical dilemmas!


Nuffield CouncilBene and Mal’s Bioethics series with support from Nuffield Council on Bioethics
Click here to find out more!