Christiane Woopen has been Heinrich Hertz Professor of Life Ethics at the University of Bonn and founding director of the Center for Life Ethics since October 2021. Previously, she was Professor of Ethics and Theory of Medicine at the University of Cologne, where she was Founding Director of the interfaculty Cologne Center for Ethics, Rights, Economics, and Social Sciences of Health (ceres). In addition to leading national and international research projects, she is involved in policy advocacy, including as Chair of the German Ethics Council (2012-2016), as President of the Global Summit of National Ethics Councils (2014-2016), as a member of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee until 2017, as Co-Spokesperson of the German Government Data Ethics Council from 2018 – 2019, and as Chair of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) from 2017 to 2021. Woopen is a member of several academies of sciences (NRW, BBAW, Academia Europaea) and was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class.
Abstract – Ethics by design in technologies for health
Technologies are increasingly shaping every area of our individual and societal life, including healthcare. They help to better understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases and they can contribute to enhancing healthy functions. Especially digital technologies including algorithmic systems that are called artificial intelligence collect, store, and use tons of personal and nonpersonal data that can be used to develop precision medicine or the so called P4 medicine: a healthcare that is preventive, predictive, personalized and participatory. Eventually a learning healthcare system could emerge, where data from everyday healthcare can be used for research and the results from research are immediately introduced into everyday healthcare. Huge financial resources and technological skills are needed to develop and use these technologies, thus tech giants enter the stage and become increasingly powerful also in healthcare.
“Values are baked into everything”. There is no technology that doesn´t involve values. From the very idea what technologies are developed for to the way they are designed, deployed, and used values and ethically relevant aspects are touched upon. Furthermore, the system of organizations and institutions around the technologies and their mutual influence on each other impact ethical principles such as autonomy, privacy, justice and solidarity. Digital, social and political technologies shape how people can or cannot live healthy lives, not only within the healthcare system but also beyond. Not least they influence the understanding of underlying concepts such as health and disease, or body and mind. It is crucial to reflect ethical issues right from the beginning of technology development and to do so throughout the whole life cycle, including aspects of sustainability. Only then technologies will contribute to the good and flourishing lives that individuals and societies aspire to live.