Why medical ethicists like NFTs

Medical ethicists believe non-fungible tokens could give patients more control over their medical data and allow them to track biological samples taken from their bodies, Scientific American reported April 13.

According to Kristin Kostick-Quenet, PhD, a medical ethicist at Baylor University, medical information from EHRs are exchanged and sold without the knowledge of patients, causing an ethical conundrum as they are left out of the conversation when it comes to where and who has access to their personal health information.

But, Dr. Kostick-Quenet suggests that NFTs could change this. 

According to Dr. Kostick-Quenet, patients could own an NFT of their medical data. This would allow their information to be stored in a secure, encrypted database, where the NFT would act as a gatekeeper, tracking who requested access, who was granted access and when — recording all those actions publicly.

NFTs could also be used to cover biospecimens, such as tumors, that are physically removed from patients or organoids created with a patient's tissue. 

Marielle Gross, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, said patients could own an NFT of their cells that would allow them to track how the cells were used. 

"There's really no good reason, morally speaking, why patients aren't the owners of their own samples and the derivatives thereof," Dr. Gross said. 

But, not everyone agrees. 

Lisa Lee, former executive director of the Presidential Bioethics Commission under President Barack Obama said patients share custody over their information with physicians and health systems. While patients have a right to see it and to have a say in responsibly using the data, they may not have the right to control what happens to it.

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