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Medical AI and responsibility for misdiagnoses

The field of artificial intelligence has made impressive strides in the medical field, especially as a diagnostic aid. The advancing technology, however, creates difficult legal questions about liability if the machine makes a mistake. Currently, a Pennsylvania physician who harms a patient because of a misdiagnosis would potentially be liable for damages. In the future, blaming a machine for a medical mistake would introduce the problem of assigning liability.

When legal and insurance experts consider the problem, the first solution appears to be blaming the machine, but then that would leave no clear way for a victim to recover damages. The designers of AI systems present the next target, but development of the complex technology often involves hundreds of people. Choosing exactly who to hold responsible could be impossible. Placing liability upon the organizations running AI systems remains an option, but that approach could dissuade organizations from using the technology at all.

The benefits of AI in medicine have already been documented, and the tools could reduce medical errors, which are the third most common cause of death in the United States. Tests of AI that pit the technology against experienced clinicians have produced results that match or exceed the diagnostic accuracy of human physicians.

When a physician misdiagnoses a patient, the undetected disease could spread and cause physical harm and financial hardship. Someone whose health deteriorated because of a physician's failure to diagnose the correct disease might want to meet with an attorney to see if the mistake constitutes medical malpractice that could give rise to a lawsuit seeking appropriate compensation.

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