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Large language models in medical ethics: useful but not expert


Ferrario, Andrea; Biller-Andorno, Nikola (2024). Large language models in medical ethics: useful but not expert. Journal of Medical Ethics:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

Large language models (LLMs) have now entered the realm of medical ethics. In a recent study, Balaset alexamined the performance of GPT-4, a commercially available LLM, assessing its performance in generating responses to diverse medical ethics cases. Their findings reveal that GPT-4 demonstrates an ability to identify and articulate complex medical ethical issues, although its proficiency in encoding the depth of real-world ethical dilemmas remains an avenue for improvement. Investigating the integration of LLMs into medical ethics decision-making appears to be an interesting avenue of research. However, despite the promising trajectory of LLM technology in medicine, it is crucial to exercise caution and refrain from attributing their expertise to medical ethics. Our thesis follows an examination of the nature of expertise and the epistemic limitations that affect LLM technology. As a result, we propose two more fitting applications of LLMs in medical ethics: first, as tools for mining electronic health records or scientific literature, thereby supplementing evidence for resolving medical ethics cases, and second, as educational platforms to foster ethical reflection and critical thinking skills among students and residents. The integration of LLMs in medical ethics, while promising, requires careful consideration of their epistemic limitations. Consequently, a well-considered definition of their role in ethically sensitive decision-making is crucial.

Abstract

Large language models (LLMs) have now entered the realm of medical ethics. In a recent study, Balaset alexamined the performance of GPT-4, a commercially available LLM, assessing its performance in generating responses to diverse medical ethics cases. Their findings reveal that GPT-4 demonstrates an ability to identify and articulate complex medical ethical issues, although its proficiency in encoding the depth of real-world ethical dilemmas remains an avenue for improvement. Investigating the integration of LLMs into medical ethics decision-making appears to be an interesting avenue of research. However, despite the promising trajectory of LLM technology in medicine, it is crucial to exercise caution and refrain from attributing their expertise to medical ethics. Our thesis follows an examination of the nature of expertise and the epistemic limitations that affect LLM technology. As a result, we propose two more fitting applications of LLMs in medical ethics: first, as tools for mining electronic health records or scientific literature, thereby supplementing evidence for resolving medical ethics cases, and second, as educational platforms to foster ethical reflection and critical thinking skills among students and residents. The integration of LLMs in medical ethics, while promising, requires careful consideration of their epistemic limitations. Consequently, a well-considered definition of their role in ethically sensitive decision-making is crucial.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Health Policy, Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous), Issues, ethics and legal aspects, Health (social science)
Language:English
Date:22 January 2024
Deposited On:24 Jan 2024 09:09
Last Modified:31 Mar 2024 01:38
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN:0306-6800
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1136/jme-2023-109770
PubMed ID:38253463
  • Content: Accepted Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)