Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Language matters: the ‘digital twin’ metaphor in health and medicine
  1. Deborah Lupton
  1. Vitalities Lab, Centre for Social Research in Health, Social Policy Research Centre, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Deborah Lupton, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia; d.lupton{at}

Statistics from

In his Feature Article ‘Represent me: please: Towards an ethics of digital twins in medicine’1, Mattias Braun considers several important bioethical issues in relation to the use of digital twin simulations in health and medical contexts. He focuses on the ways these simulations are used or are proposed to be deployed in these domains, including to what extent they are a ‘true’ or ‘real’ representation of human bodies. In this response, I want to take a step back and delve into the metaphor of the ‘digital twin’. I consider the implications of using this metaphor in the context of medical care and how this choice of language participates in what science and technology scholars term the ‘sociomaterial imaginaries’ that are used to support and promote novel technologies.2

Language is important. It matters. The choice of language is both symbolic and persuasive. It intervenes in political and policy debates and research and healthcare funding decisions.2 It has material effects and affects: to some of which Braun has gestured in his piece. The …

View Full Text


  • Contributors DL is the sole author of this commentary. There are no other contributors.

  • Funding This study was funded by Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society CE200100005.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Other content recommended for you