Hope for the best and prepare for the worst: Ethical concerns related to the introduction of healthcare artificial intelligence

Abstract

Background: The introduction of healthcare AI to society as well as the clinical setting will improve individual health statuses and increase the possible medical choices. AI can be, however, regarded as a double-edged sword that might cause medically and socially undesirable situations. In this paper, we attempt to predict several negative situations that may be faced by healthcare professionals, patients and citizens in the healthcare setting, and our society as a whole. Discussion: We would argue that physicians abuse healthcare AI through their excessive and dependent use of it, and they will focus only on the AI services in their office and patient medical data and information, and forget to observe the patient in their clinical encounters. In the era of AI introduction, data from the wearable terminal or AI advice will become the primary target of the physician’s interest, and could be regarded as a patient surrogate. Paternalism would be paradoxically resurrected by the introduction of state-of-the-art AI. A physician’s conflict of interest related to AI as a commercial product could strongly influence his or her actions in clinical settings. We also worry that the general public will become uneasy and hypersensitive slaves to information, compulsively and uninterruptedly requesting healthcare information concerning their own health and advice from AI. An AI system capable of expressing proper and timely empathy to suffering patients could deprive healthcare professionals of their roles in terms of hospitality and emotional exchange. Finally, entire societies would soon share and consolidate healthcare sensitive information from all in the general public as part of a totalitarian healthcontrolled society where individual privacy and personal secrets could be neglected. The advent of the healthcontrolled society could lead to the metamorphosis of the concept of privacy itself into something completely different. Conclusion: Although AI which surpasses human healthcare professionals may never appear, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst is the best approach to take. To this end, we present some potential countermeasures including conducting clinical research and social investigations concerning problems surrounding the introduction of AI and developing guidelines for its appropriate use.

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