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Aspects of Law and Ethics Related to Technology

"Looking back to the future" in Sweden

October 2005

"Looking back to the future" was the theme of the recent Ethicomp 2005 conference held at Linkoping University, in recognition of the 10 years since the first of this series of conferences in the computer ethics field.

Prompted by the submission of their joint paper "On-line Pharmacies: are we heading in the right direction?" Drs Carlisle George and Penny Duquenoy (Senior Lecturers in the School of Computing Science and members of the ALERT research group) were invited to take part in organising a workshop on "The ethics of Medical Informatics". The workshop was based on a panel session, each member giving a short presentation of their perspective on key issues and setting the context of the discussion for the audience. Panel members came with an appropriate range of background disciplines: computing, law, philosophy, and psychology.

The approach for the session was to begin from the technical perspective, move through policy and law and possible applications and finally address the human element. The developer's point of view was given by Erik Boralv (HCI Researcher at Uppsala University, followed by issues of Policy and Law (Carlisle). Application areas within medical informatics were discussed under the banner of Intelligent Devices (Penny), and aspects of anthromorphism in military applications (Kai Kimppa, University of Turku). In moving from applications to people, Göran Collste (Centre for Applied Ethics, Linköping University) spoke of issues affecting the doctor/patient relationship, and Iordanis Kavathatzopoulos (HCI, Uppsala) finished by addressing the question "how can we support the people involved in implementing these systems?"

The presentations generated some lively debate with the audience, and time ran out far too soon. Members of the audience registered their interest in any further developments the panel members put forward (for example, a special interest group or other conference workshops), and discussions continued amongst the participants over lunch.

The panel are currently working on an anthology to highlight the issues in this area, which is being co-ordinated by Penny Duquenoy.

For details of the Ethicomp conference see: www.ccsr.cse.dmu.ac.uk/conferences/ethicomp/ethicomp2005/

October 20