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Ethics for Healthcare AI

The World Health Organization has issued guidelines for the ethical use of artificial intelligence in healthcare, the Verge reports. This is the first such consensus report on AI ethics in healthcare, it says.

As the Verge notes, there are numerous ways AI could be implemented in healthcare, ranging from scanning mammograms for signs of breast cancer to searching health records to predict whether someone may fall ill. The WHO guidance outlines six main ethical principles for developers, governments, and society to ensure AI tools benefit the public.

Namely, those principles include protecting human autonomy; promoting human safety and well-being and the public interest; ensuring transparency; fostering responsibility and accountability; ensuring inclusiveness and equity; and promoting AI that is responsive and sustainable.

The Verge notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some drawbacks of relying on AI, such as viral contract tracing apps with mission creep and programs to detect COVID-19 from chest scans based on incomplete data.

"If employed wisely, AI has the potential to empower patients and communities to assume control of their own healthcare and better understand their evolving needs," Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO, writes in the introduction to the report. "But if we do not take appropriate measures, AI could also lead to situations where decisions that should be made by providers and patients are transferred to machines, which would undermine human autonomy."

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