First scenario: building and AI tool devoted to diagnosing COVID-19 disease
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Iñigo de Miguel Beriain (UPV/EHU)

This part of The Guidelines has been reviewed and validated by Marko Sijan, Senior Advisor Specialist, (HR DPA)


The response to the pandemic created situations in which many patients needed health care but it was hard to provide due to the high incidence of the disease amongst health personnel. In this situation,a radiologist, for example, could not deal with the high number of X-Rays to be analyzed due to the absence of colleagues on sick leave. Using AI for such purposes could be of great help for the future, but there are a lot of ethical and legal issues that must be considered. In this scenario, we will analyze the different steps that must be fulfilled by a team of researchers willing to train an algorithm able to help with the diagnosis of lung disease.

Preliminary remarks

Research with health data presents particularly important ethical challenges. If we are also talking about a case where patients suffer from a disease such as COVID, the dilemma is particularly pressing. In the context of health care, it is easy to intermix informed consent associated with clinical practice with consent to biomedical research. This is always a matter of concern. The two things are hugely different. Planning an activity such as the development of an IA tool for diagnosis should take this into account. This is especially true for patients in more vulnerable situations than usual. It should never be forgotten that the objectives of biomedical research cannot overlap with people’s interests and well-being.

There are several essential tools that researchers should always keep in mind when designing a plan for the development of an AI tool. The Ethics issues checklist included in the Horizon 2020 Programme Guidance “How to complete your ethics self-assessment”, page 6[1] is highly recommended. Some essential documents to be consulted include:

  • High-Level Expert Group on AI: ‘Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI’.[2]
  • EU Commission, White Paper on Artificial Intelligence – A European approach to excellence and trust[3]
  •  Training and Resources in Research Ethics Evaluation (TRREE)[4] is an online tools that provides free-of-charge access to:
    • e-Learning: a distance learning program and certification on research ethics evaluation
    • e-Resources: a participatory web-site with international, regional and national regulatory and policy resources
  • Additional online training tools can be found in the EUREC web page[5].







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