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Cancer Center Faces Scrutiny After Deal with Artificial Intelligence Company

September 27th, 2018
By Zach Christiansen of The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation on Thursday, September 27, 2018.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana. When an artificial intelligence company partnered up with one of the nation’s leading cancer research institutions, the public response was less than positive. According to the New York Times, the deal would give the artificial intelligence company access to the cancer center’s massive collection of tissue slides. The cancer center has recently faced increased scrutiny as major news outlets have revealed potential conflicts of interest between the chief medical officer and health and drug companies.

The biggest concern that patients expressed involved their privacy rights. Some patients worried that their health data might be used to commercial ends. Patients have certain rights when they visit the hospital or the doctor. This includes the right to privacy.

Yet, there are certainly gray areas of the law. Take the story of Henrietta Lacks. Johns Hopkins University was one of the few cancer centers treating African Americans in 1951, when Ms. Lacks sought treatment. She was found to have cervical cancer and received treatment for the disease. Samples of her cancer were sent to the university’s research lab. The researchers learned that Ms. Lacks’ cells were unique, in that they did not die in the lab, unlike other samples that had been harvested by the hospital. These cells were so remarkable that they are used to this day to test the effects of cancer drugs and toxins on cancer cells. They are also used to study the ways radiation impacts human cells and the ways that certain toxic chemicals interact with human cells. Her cells are known as the HeLa line by doctors. The controversy regarding the cells is that Ms. Lacks and her family were never compensated for the sample. The Smithsonian reports that the family is seeking compensation for the use of her cells, because the cells were harvested without Lacks’s permission or without the permission of the family.

The Times reports that both patients and researchers at the cancer center are concerned about the deal with the artificial intelligence company. Patients worry about their data being used for profit and researchers are upset that the years of research they have amassed is being used without their compensation.

The cancer center claims that if the artificial intelligence system proves effective, it can change the way cancer is diagnosed. Yet, when using patients’ data, researchers and doctors have a responsibility to inform patients and, in some cases, compensate them for their donations.

The use of medical samples for research and commercial purposes is a growing area of concern under the law. Some critics claim that it is an invasion of patients’ privacy, while doctors and researchers claim that the samples were freely given and should be available for medical and research use.

Artificial intelligence companies are increasingly examining how they can improve health care with computer programs and algorithms. Yet, for artificial intelligence to work, it needs to be fed massive amounts of data from a range of patients. This raises ethics questions regarding the use of this data.

The The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm are medical malpractice lawyers in New Orleans, Louisiana who work closely with patients who feel that their rights have been violated by medical professionals. If you or a loved one has been hurt at a hospital, or if you feel that your privacy rights may have been violated, you may have certain rights under the law. Contact us at the The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm today.

The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation

1615 Poydras Street, Suite 1050

New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112

Phone: (504) 586-5200

Toll Free: (504) 586-5200

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