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Chapter 18 - Robots and AI in the Healthcare Sector: Potential Existing Legal Safeguards Against a(n) (Un)justified Fear for ‘Dehumanisation’ of the Physician-Patient Relationship

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2021

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Summary

INTRODUCTION

  • 1. In this chapter, I will first discuss the rise of robotics and AI in the healthcare sector and the concern of some scholars that this may lead to a dehumanisation of the physician-patient relationship (part 2). I will then elaborate on four potential existing legal safeguards against such dehumanisation: the fact that only qualified persons are allowed to provide healthcare (part 3) and the resulting liability of the physician if things go wrong (part 4); the right of the patient to receive information about his/her health condition and to give his/her prior informed consent under the Belgian Law on Patient Rights (part 5), and finally transparency and informed consent under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (part 6). I will conclude with an overview (part 7).

THE RISE OF ROBOTICS AND AI TO DEAL WITH INCREASING DEMANDS IN THE HEALTHCARE SECTOR

  • 2. A recent publication commissioned by the European Parliament states that the health sector is facing increasing demands on services brought on by issues such as an ageing population, an increase of chronic diseases, budgetary constraints, and a shortage of qualified workers. Developments in the field of robotics and AI can provide countless opportunities for addressing these challenges, resulting in necessary and significant cost and time savings. These efficiency benefits are the result of the fact the work is done more efficiently, more quickly and at a lower cost than a human actor could do it. According to the same study, the application of robotics and AI could lead to improvements in fields such as medical diagnosis, surgical intervention, prevention and treatment of diseases, and support for rehabilitation and longterm care. They could also contribute to more effective and automated work management processes, while offering continuous training for healthcare workers. It is estimated that the market for AI in healthcare will reach around $6,6 billion by 2021 and $8 billion by 2022, with significant cost savings for healthcare systems. According to a recent French study, the health sector is internationally the second most impacted sector by robotics and AI after the telecommunications and technologies sector, but preceding the financial services and automotive sector.

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Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2021

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