, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 205–214 | Cite as

Freitas on Disease in Nanomedicine: Implications for Ethics

  • Vassiliki L. Leontis
  • George J. Agich
Original Paper


This paper critically examines the volitional normative model of disease and its underlying nanotechnologic vision of medicine both defended by Robert Freitas. Having provided an account of this vision, we explicate the highlight of the model, which is a concept of disease based on individual values and preferences. The model’s normative positions are then critiqued based on our argument that the epistemic basis of Freitas’s vision of nanotechnologic medicine and, by extension, of his volitional normative model of disease is scientifically flawed. An ethical and social critique of the model is then conducted on the basis of the model’s implicit ethical underpinnings. We argue that Freitas fails to justify the normativity of his model by not addressing the ethical issues that permeate it, one of which is the question of responsibility regarding the development of medical nanotechnology and the practice of new forms of medicine such as the one he envisions. We conclude that, due to its radically individualistic position, the model implies an unjustified view of nanoethics and relegates this field of ethics to the periphery of discussions of nanomedicine.


Chromosome replacement therapy Freitas Molecular reference structures Molecular technologic medicine Nanoethics Nanomedicine Nanotechnologic medicine Nanotechnology Volitional normative model of disease 



This research was supported, in part, by a National Science Foundation Sub-Grant from the Center of Nanoengineering of Polymeric Biomedical Devices at Ohio State University.

The authors wish to thank Neocles Leontis for his feedback on their biological account of gene expression/protein synthesis and two anonymous reviewers of the journal for their encouragement and valuable criticism.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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