Concepts of Risk in Nanomedicine Research


  • Linda F. Hogle

    1. Professor of Medical Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a member of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery's Polymer Bio-Nano-composite Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering (BIONATES) research group.
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Risk takes center stage in ethical debates over nanomedical technologies. Yet concepts of risk may hold different meanings, and they are embedded within particular political, economic, and social contexts. This article discusses framings of risk in debates over medical innovations such as nanomedicine, and draws attention to organizational and institutional forms of risk which are less visible in bioethical policy debates. While significant, possibly unique risks may exist in specific nano-based products, risk may also arise from the very processes and procedures that develop, test, and oversee any novel technology. This supports recommendations to coordinate efforts through an interagency Working Group and a Secretary-level Advisory Committee to provide flexibility and sensitivity to emerging issues of concern.