The nature of disease and suffering and the goals of precision medicine

Ph.D. -course

Course description

Course content

Precision Medicine (PM) has emerged as a prominent paradigm poised to transform medical research and clinical practice. Through a broad scope of literature, seminars, and cases brought from participants¿ own research projects, the aim of this course is to facilitate reflection and deliberation on central philosophical and normative issues in the social organization and practices of PM. Key concepts will be utilized to open up the PM paradigm for philosophical criticism and reflection, thus contributing to a knowledge culture of PM where central philosophical, societal, and ethical issues, dilemmas, ambiguities, and controversies can be addressed. Course participants own background and research questions will actively be used as a point of departure for deliberations and reflections.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing this course the candidate will have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


  • Knowledge and understanding about key features and concepts related to PM.
  • Knowledge and understanding about different conceptions of suffering, disease, and health in different research traditions, including the aim and scope of these conceptualizations.
  • Knowledge about and understanding of key concepts of responsible research and innovation (RRI), including the aim, historical context, and societal role of RRI.
  • Knowledge about qualitative (disease specific) research contributions to their research field in PM.


  • Use different concepts of suffering, disease, and health to open up PM for interdisciplinary deliberation and reflection.
  • Compare and reflect critically about PM as a novel way of organizing medical research and clinical practice.
  • Identify, draw, and assess normative implications of PM for research and clinical practice, sociological categories and roles (researcher, physician, patient, user participants), persons living with these diseases, caregivers, and society.
  • Reflect critically on unarticulated assumptions and premises related to own academic fields and research projects: design, implementation, and impact.
  • Find and apply relevant qualitative literature to improve reflection on own research project and research field as parts of a broader knowledge culture.

General Competence:

  • Ability to reflect critically on complex and ambiguous issues.
  • Ability to analyze and synthesize insights from different perspectives in a non-technical language.
  • Ability to communicate and cooperate in an interdisciplinary context.
  • Raised awareness of PM through engagement with theoretical contributions and own experiences.

Study period

The course will next time be held in the autumn 2024.

Credits (ECTS)


Course location

Campus UiB / Haukeland University Hospital
Language of instruction
Recommended previous knowledge includes theory of science and ethics equivalent of examen philosophicum. The course content presupposes a medical or health related educational background or a PhD project related to medical/health related research.
Part of training component
Recommended as part of the training component for candidates affiliated with the Neuro-SysMed Research School for translational Neuroscience, and with the Research Schools at UiB in general.
Form of assessment

Pass/ Fail

To pass the course the candidate must have:

1. Read a selection of the literature list in preparation for the course (10 hours)

2. Prepare and perform a short oral presentation of their project (2 hours)

3. Prepare and perform an oral presentation comprising a critical analysis of their project (20 hours)

4. Write a 2-4 pages long finishing reflection note (8 hours)

5. Attend minimum of 80% of the workshop (16/21 hours)

Course overlap

The Phd course «Cancer Research - Ethical, Economic and Social Aspects» (CCBIO903) is a well established ECTS meriting course since 2015. The focus of CCBIO903 includes ethical and social aspects of cancer research, primarily in connection with priority setting.

The course in Philosophy of precision medicine is concerned with ethical and social aspects of medical research too, but focuses on precision medicine at large and is primarily concerned with ontological, epistemic and ethical issues in relation to conceptions of disease and suffering. Thus, the course in Philosophy of Precicion Medicine is complementary, not overlapping CCBIO903.

The course will be focused on reflections on what the participants brings to the course.

Who may participate
The course is open to PhD candidates, students in the Medical Student Research Program, postdocs and researchers. The course is limited to 15 participants. PhD candidates affiliated with Neuro-SysMed or the Centre for Cancer Biomarkers (CCBIO) will be prioritized.

The course will be open nationally and internationally.
The course is a three-day interactive workshop comprising a combination of readings, lectures, deliberations, presentations, and writings.
Academic responsible

Caroline Engen

Jan Reinert Karlsen

Nina Agnethe Grytten Torkildsen


Jan Reinert Karlsen

Caroline Engen

Invited speakers TBA