UK group raises ethical concerns regarding AI in healthcare

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a British independent monitoring body, in a recent briefing note, has expressed concern regarding the ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare.

"The potential applications of AI in healthcare are being explored through a number of promising initiatives across different sectors—by industry, health sector organizations and through government investment,” said Hugh Whittall, Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. “While their aims and interests may vary, there are some common ethical issues that arise from their work. Our briefing note outlines some of the key ethical issues that need to be considered if the benefits of AI technology are to be realized, and public trust maintained. The challenge will be to ensure that innovation in AI is developed and used in ways that are transparent, that address societal needs, and that are consistent with public values."

AI has the potential to reduce of medical errors, improve patient engagement, eliminate human bias and improve chronic disease management. But ethical concerns include responsibility when AI is used to support decision-making, erroneous decisions from AI, inherent bias in data used to train AI systems and the security and privacy of potentially sensitive data.

“AI technologies have the potential to help address important health challenges but might be limited by the quality of available health data, and by the inability of AI to possess some human characteristics, such as compassion,” concluded the note. “The use of AI raises a number of ethical and social issues, many of which overlap with issues raised by the use of data and healthcare technologies more broadly. A key challenge for future governance of AI technologies will be ensuring that AI is developed and used in a way that is transparent and compatible with the public interest, whilst stimulating and driving innovation in the sector.”