Precision medicine, incorporating personalized medicine, is an emerging medical model that holds great promise for improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of many diseases. The future success of precision medicine, however, depends on the establishment of large databases that collate diverse data, including family genealogies, disease histories, drug sensitivities and genomic data. Herein I raise some of the social and ethical challenges that such a system faces, specifically: the enrolment of volunteers into large genetic databases; the need for a change in mindset of clinicians, patients and the wider public; and the need for interdisciplinary ethics considering the emerging issues. Finally I argue that the future potential of ‘personalized’ medicine crucially depends on ‘collective’ participation of informed citizens.
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