Which Framework to Use? A Systematic Review of Ethical Frameworks for the Screening or Evaluation of Health Technology Innovations

Science and Engineering Ethics 28 (3):1-35 (2022)
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Innovations permeate healthcare settings on an ever-increasing scale. Health technology innovations impact our perceptions and experiences of health, care, disease, etc. Because of the fast pace these HTIs are being introduced in different healthcare settings, there is a growing societal consensus that these HTIs need to be governed by ethical reflection. This paper reports a systematic review of argument-based literature which focused on articles reporting on ethical frameworks to screen or evaluate HTIs. To do this a four step methodology was followed: Literature search conducted in five electronic literature databases; Identification of relevant articles; Development of data-extraction tool to analyze the included articles; Analysis, synthesis of data and reporting of results. Fifty-seven articles were included, each reporting on a specific ethical framework. These ethical frameworks existed out of characteristics which were grouped into five common ones: Motivations for development and use of frameworks; Objectives of using frameworks; Specific characteristics of frameworks ; Ethical approaches and concepts used in the frameworks; Methods to use the frameworks. Although this multiplicity of ethical frameworks shows an increasing importance of ethically analyzing HTIs, it remains unclear what the specific role is of these analyses. An ethics of caution, on which ethical frameworks rely, guides HTIs in their design, development, implementation, without questioning their technological paradigm. An ethics of desirability questions this paradigm, without guiding HTIs. In the end, a place needs to be found in-between, to critically assess HTIs.



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Tijs Vandemeulebroucke
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

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