Artificial intelligence (AI) applications aiming to support surgical decision-making processes are generating novel threats to ethical surgical care. To understand and address these threats, we summarize the main ethical issues that may arise from applying AI to surgery, starting from the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence framework recently promoted by the European Commission.
A modified Delphi process has been employed to achieve expert consensus.
The main ethical issues that arise from applying AI to surgery, described in detail here, relate to human agency, accountability for errors, technical robustness, privacy and data governance, transparency, diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness. It may be possible to address many of these ethical issues by expanding the breadth of surgical AI research to focus on implementation science. The potential for AI to disrupt surgical practice suggests that formal digital health education is becoming increasingly important for surgeons and surgical trainees.
A multidisciplinary focus on implementation science and digital health education is desirable to balance opportunities offered by emerging AI technologies and respect for the ethical principles of a patient-centric philosophy.