Consent-GPT: Is it ethical to delegate procedural consent to conversational AI?

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Allen, J., Earp, B., Koplin, J. and Wilkinson, D., (2024), 'Consent-GPT: Is it ethical to delegate procedural consent to conversational AI?', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 50(2): 77-83 [PMC10850653]


Obtaining informed consent from patients prior to a medical or surgical procedure is a fundamental part of safe and ethical clinical practice. Currently, it is routine for a significant part of the consent process to be delegated to members of the clinical team not performing the procedure (eg, junior doctors). However, it is common for consent-taking delegates to lack sufficient time and clinical knowledge to adequately promote patient autonomy and informed decision-making. Such problems might be addressed in a number of ways. One possible solution to this clinical dilemma is through the use of conversational artificial intelligence using large language models (LLMs). There is considerable interest in the potential benefits of such models in medicine. For delegated procedural consent, LLM could improve patients' access to the relevant procedural information and therefore enhance informed decision-making.In this paper, we first outline a hypothetical example of delegation of consent to LLMs prior to surgery. We then discuss existing clinical guidelines for consent delegation and some of the ways in which current practice may fail to meet the ethical purposes of informed consent. We outline and discuss the ethical implications of delegating consent to LLMs in medicine concluding that at least in certain clinical situations, the benefits of LLMs potentially far outweigh those of current practices.


The Wellcome Trust (WT203132) Oxford Ethics and Humanities. See more free papers published under this grant.

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/W005077/1) Epistemic Autonomy: Scaffolded, Embedded and Distributed (in collaboration with the University of Glasgow). More information on this project can be found here.

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