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The British Science Festival recently unveiled a pilot smartphone app that is said to measure symptoms of Parkinson’s.

The app, developed by Aston University, measures the movement and speech patterns of users, in order to assess the presence of tremors, stiffness and difficulty with movement and speech.

The monitoring works by ‘following’ a patient for a week, and checking up every 18 months in order to assess changes in patterns as a better indicator of the existence of Parkinson’s.

Better diagnostic tools are a positive element on improving healthcare, but potential medicine applicants should note the ethical dilemmas of such a ‘home testing’ kit. How much information should patients be given about their health outside of a medical environment? Should we trust patients with their own medical data above all else, or should we be concerned about the ramifications of being diagnosed without a qualified doctor present to interpret and mediate the results?

For a similar ethical dilemma, reading up on HIV dried blood spot testing will be well worth your time. This is useful for thinking on the ultimate aim of medicine – does having dried blood testing more widely available mean more people can get tested for HIV and is thus a good thing? Or should we be concerned about how people are tested and how they receive knowledge about their diagnosis, as much as the diagnosis itself?

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