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Posted by on Feb 23, 2018 in Bioethics, Rare disease | 0 comments

Rare Disease Day & bioethics (23.02.2018)

Rare Disease Day & bioethics (23.02.2018)

Founded in 2008, international Rare Disease Day ( is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, on February 28th.

What is Rare Disease Day? I’m so glad you asked!
It’s a day on which healthcare professionals & volunteers, medical students & trainees, patients & caregivers, researchers, and the general public are all encouraged to learn about rare diseases – and to share their related experience and knowledge with others. So it’s a day for… pretty much everyone.

The patient & caregiver community especially is encouraged to get involved in raising awareness – to the extent that they’re able – by sharing their patient journey & stories. The views – even within the healthcare professions – are starting to shift towards viewing patients (and caregivers) as partners in healthcare and also as experts in disease experience.(2)

How can caregivers & patients share their stories, and raise awareness of their rare diseases? Or of the challenges involved in rare diseases, at a more general level? We can use any means we can think of! Some of the outreach activities that caregivers and patients (like me!) have used so far are:

  • art
  • blogs (like this one!) & vlogs
  • community & media outreach
  • conversations, just reaching out one-on-one (I do this whenever someone seems interested in my hand/wrist brace)
  • dance (watch Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli, who’s made a career of dancing with a rare disease!
  • music & song
  • photography
  • poetry & creative writing
  • presentations at live events & webcasts
  • radio shows
  • social media (I post rare disease information on 4 different platforms!)
  • video

Healthcare professionals are encouraged to present information on the rare disease(s) they treat, to other people working within healthcare as well as to patients and the public. Events are planned on Rare Disease Day at hospitals and universities, even at some small clinics.

If you’re one of my colleagues, someone working in bioethics in any country, I strongly encourage you to participate in Rare Disease Day as a healthcare professional. The issues and challenges facing the rare disease community fall under (m)any of the 4 commonly accepted principles of bioethics (3):

  1. Respect for autonomy
    Hear directly from patients about their rare disease experiences; for the 50% of these diseases that affect children (1), their caregivers & parents share their journeys
  2. Nonmaleficence
    Rare diseases are often misdiagnosed, sometimes for years, and increasing awareness of them can help prevent this
  3. Beneficence
    Any increase in knowledge – of the 6,000 currently documented rare diseases (1) – has the potential to help improve care for future patients
  4. Justice
    Lack of awareness of rare diseases, within healthcare, has created injustices in terms of access to diagnosis and disease-appropriate care

If you’d like to attend an event for Rare Disease Day, click here to find out what’s been planned in your area – you can filter/sort the events by country and/or by disease:

You’d rather take part from where you are? No problem!
Click here for short Rare Disease Day stories and videos from patient & caregivers. These 500-word stories – or videos – show the diversity of rare diseases, and of patients & caregivers. So many people with rare diseases are children, and their parents’ stories are incredible!:

Each story on the Rare Disease Day website is written in simple language. That’s because the website’s international, so readers around the world may be using translation tools that work best with simpler terms.

To read my story on the Rare Disease Day website, click here for a direct link: There are only 2 other stories on the website right about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), my rare disease (sometimes also called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)).

Thanks for reading!
If you have any questions, or would like more information, please leave a comment & I’ll try to get back to you within 24 hours.
Sometimes instantly, if I’m already on-line!

(1) Rare Disease Day is coordinated by the European Organisation for Rare Diseases (Eurordis). For more information, visit the Rare Disease Day 2018 website at:

(2) Pomey, Marie-Pascale et al. “Patients as Partners: A Qualitative Study of Patients’ Engagement in Their Health Care.” Ed. Antony Bayer. PLoS ONE 10.4 (2015): e0122499. PMC. Web. 4 Mar. 2018. Web:

(3) Beauchamp, Tom & Childress, James. Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 7th Edition. Oxford University Press. 23 Oct 2012.

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