The robot-patient relationship: An ethical inquiry into the replacement of human doctors with artificial intelligence
One way to increase good health outcomes for patients could be to replace human doctors (GPs) with artificial intelligence on account of AI’s epistemic superiority. We might think of this premise as the replacement thesis. It is widely assumed that good healthcare requires a good doctor-patient relationship, and the replacement thesis raises immediate questions around the impact of AI upon this relationship. In particular, it is doubtful whether aspects of patient-centered medicine within this relationship – namely, communication, trust, and empathy – can be provided by AI without undermining its corresponding health outcomes. I defend the ethical plausibility of the replacement thesis by examining the instrumental value of the aspects of communication, trust, and empathy to the end of good health and investigating whether AI can – either practically or, where empirical support is absent, in principle – uphold these aspects to the extent necessary to secure this outcome. I argue that whilst the parts of communication, trust, and empathy that are instrumental towards good health are largely assumable by AI, tensions between black-box medicine and patient-centered medicine will need resolved before AI can replace human doctors and transform the doctor-patient relationship into the robot-patient relationship. Resolution of these tensions will support the ethical plausibility of the replacement thesis and present an argument for healthcare to pursue AI replacement in future.
Advisor: King, Mike; Walker, Simon; Gavaghan, Colin
Degree Name: Master of Health Sciences
Degree Discipline: Bioethics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: artificial intelligence; AI; bioethics; healthcare; doctor-patient relationship; medicine; communication; trust; empathy
Research Type: Thesis