On the organisational side the project tries to attract people working in the field of Free Software in medicine to share the effort of building a common platform that reduces the amount of work for developers and users. Sharing the effort in publishing free medical software to a large user base is a main advantage of Debian Med.
The strength of Debian is the huge number of developers (more than 1,000) all over the world working in different fields. Some of them are working in the field of biology or medicine and thus have a natural interest in developing a rock solid system they can rely on for their own work (not only commercial interest to sell service per accident). Often, chances for providing support for small user groups are greater inside a community driven distribution than in a commercial distribution: it just needs some developers who have a specific interest and they will realise and publish an environment for their needs and will share it with other users. A company that has to gain a certain market share is not flexible enough in this regard to cover very specific interests.
The underlying principle that those things will be done if there is somebody who just does the work is called do-ocracy - which just means the doer decides what gets done.
That is the reason why Debian is often the platform of choice for researchers in the field of computational biology: Some biologists are Debian maintainers and so they added support for biological packages. The more the Debian users in the field of biology report back about problems or wishes, the more Debian maintainers are able to enhance their system for their own and their users' benefit.
Andreas Tille 2010-12-10