The ACES Ethics, Policy and Public Engagement theme aims to anticipate, evaluate and respond to ethical, policy and community concerns arising from emerging technologies.
Grand Challenge: To assimilate new technologies developed by ACES into society.
Ethics – we critically engage in new debates in a range of fields including bioethics; assumptions about human enhancement, health and disability; equity in access to innovative medical treatments; and the distribution of renewable energy systems and the potential for innovations to assist in reducing global poverty and supporting sustainable community development.
Policy – we explore the challenges posed for regulation and licencing of therapeutic goods with the development of personalised medicine and fabrication of individualised therapeutics. This work includes concerns around the adequacy of existing regulation of therapeutic goods and consumer protection; potential ethical responsibilities of manufacturers to end users of prosthetic organs; and the limits of randomised clinical trials for medical devices and personalised medicine regulation.
Public Engagement – our research will refine an approach for engaging with business, policy makers and end-users on innovative technologies to support the efficient and responsible translation of research. In particular, our work will seek to identify better processes for engagement and public deliberation about science and health policy; technology adoption; and corporate social responsibility for improving low cost access to renewable energy systems for remote, regional and developing regions.
- The researchers within this theme have a strong background in exploring how new technologies test existing ethical and regulatory frameworks.
- They work with the wider community to anticipate and address the ethical issues that arise with new technologies to better manage their impact on society.
- Explore the bioethical issues relating to neuroethics, bionics, robotics and personalised medicine.
- Challenge assumptions about human enhancement, health and disability.
- Explore ethical concerns about the testing of experimental devices and product liability for approved devices.
- Address ethical issues surrounding equity in access to innovative medical treatments.
- Explore the potential for new renewable energy systems to reduce global poverty and support sustainable community development.
Applications: The debates generated through this theme have the potential to influence policy regarding the regulation and community uptake of new health and energy technologies.
The Project: Protecting patients who receive implanted artificial organs from unethical operators and practices.
The Challenge: Identifying the ethical issues posed by the maintenance of implanted artificial organs and developing a framework to help society address them.
The Research: An exciting future lies ahead, as ACES researchers and those from around the world work towards developing the first fully implantable artificial organs.
While the benefits to patients are well publicised, this project considers the ethical issues posed by the maintenance, upgrade, replacement and possible re-use of artificial organs, in a bid to protect patients in the long-term.
To explore these issues, researchers have developed a case study around an existing device – the pacemaker – which shares key features with an artificial organ.
The case study revealed the existence of a range of potential ethical issues, most notably arising from the fact that pacemakers are implanted, complex, remotely accessible, subject to a cycle of upgrades and improvement, and subject to commercial interests.
Researchers used these similarities to develop a framework to help secure the best outcomes for artificial organ patients.
The Impact: The framework will help secure the best outcome for artificial organ patients by prompting researchers, clinicians and patients to ask questions such as:
- Given the device is implanted, will maintenance require surgery?
- Will it be easy for health carers who don’t know the patient to work out that they have the device implanted (e.g. in an emergency)?
- Will there be a number of people (e.g. clinicians, technicians) involved in maintenance, and will that lead to delays or communication issues?
- Does the device have remotely accessible software, and if so, can it be hacked?
- Is it likely that the cycle of device improvement will lead to problems for the first patients?
- Are there commercial interests involved, and if so, will these give rise to conflicts of interest?