Artificial Intelligence, Social Media and Depression. A New Concept of Health-Related Digital Autonomy

American Journal of Bioethics 21 (7):4-20 (2021)
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The development of artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine raises fundamental ethical issues. As one example, AI systems in the field of mental health successfully detect signs of mental disorders, such as depression, by using data from social media. These AI depression detectors (AIDDs) identify users who are at risk of depression prior to any contact with the healthcare system. The article focuses on the ethical implications of AIDDs regarding affected users’ health-related autonomy. Firstly, it presents the (ethical) discussion of AI in medicine and, specifically, in mental health. Secondly, two models of AIDDs using social media data and different usage scenarios are introduced. Thirdly, the concept of patient autonomy, according to Beauchamp and Childress, is critically discussed. Since this concept does not encompass the specific challenges linked with the digital context of AIDDs in social media sufficiently, the current analysis suggests, finally, an extended concept of health-related digital autonomy.



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Regina Müller
Institute of Philosophy, University of Bremen, Germany