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On the ethical challenges of innovation in eHealth

Author: Bächle, T. C.
Published in: Bächle, T. C., & Wernick, A. (Eds.), The futures of eHealth. Social, legal and ethical challenges (pp. 47–55). Berlin: Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society.
Year: 2019
Type: Book contributions and chapters
DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3296931

The relationship between innovation and ethics is ambiguous. On the one hand, ethical considerations are often said to be an obstacle to social or technological progress, constraining innovative approaches for the sake of being overly cautious. In that vein, codes of conduct, ethical review commissions or public debates on controversial topics such as genome editing might delay the implementation of technological solutions to pressing social and medical problems. On the other hand, while ethical principles reassuringly prevent an anything-goes attitude, they can even come to act as drivers of innovative approaches and even become a decisive factor in the competition for ideas. Of course, neither of these two contradictory viewpoints is valid on its own. Ethical considerations need to go hand in hand with innovation and should not be just an afterthought. It is a truism that any new technology poses a trade-off between benefits and risks. The advent of digital technologies, however, introduces challenges that concern all aspects of life but particularly the sensitive area of health, where a long tradition of ethical principles applies.

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