School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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The increasing accuracy of algorithms to predict values and preferences raises the possibility that artificial intelligence technology will be able to serve as a surrogate decision-maker for incapacitated patients. Following Camillo Lamanna and Lauren Byrne, we call this technology the autonomy algorithm (AA). Such an algorithm would mine medical research, health records, and social media data to predict patient treatment preferences. The possibility of developing the AA raises the ethical question of whether the AA or a relative ought to serve as surrogate decision-maker in cases where the patient has not issued a medical power of attorney. We argue that in such cases, and against the standard practice of vesting familial surrogates with decision making authority, the AA should have sole decision-making authority. This is because the AA will likely be better at predicting what treatment option the patient would have chosen. It would also be better at avoiding bias and, therefore, choosing in a more patient-centered manner. Furthermore, we argue that these considerations override any moral weight of the patient's special relationship with their relatives.


Copyright © 2020, Springer Nature B.V. Original published version available at

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Science and Engineering Ethics



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