The legal and ethical implications of using stem cells and artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine were discussed during the latest instalment of Intersection of Law and Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q).
Experts discussed the impact of recent advances in stem cell science and AI on the practice of medicine in Qatar and explored how new legal frameworks could be developed to protect the rights and safety of patients in the MENA region. The day-long event was organised by WCM-Q in collaboration with Hamad Bin Khalifa University and the University of Malaya of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Stem cells are an exciting area for medical researchers because they have the potential to repair damaged or diseased tissues in people with conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Type 1 Diabetes, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s Disease, among others. Stem cells can also be used by researchers to test new drugs for safety and effectiveness.
According to Dr Amal Robay, WCM-Q Assistant Professor in Genetic Medicine and Director of Research Compliance, stem cells have the capacity for unlimited or prolonged self-renewal, and they can differentiate themselves into many different cell types to become tissue- or organ- specific cells with special functions.
The central ethical dilemma of stem cell science arises from the fact that embryonic stem cells are derived from human embryos or by cloning.’
Visiting bioethics expert Dr Jeremy Sugarman of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said that the public image of stem cell research had been damaged by a small number of high-profile cases in which scientists behaved unethically. The field had also been hampered by different countries applying different laws to stem cell research, making international collaboration problematic.
Meanwhile, the use of AI in healthcare has the potential to leverage analyses of large amounts of data to improve patient outcomes, but poses ethical concerns regarding privacy, the diversity of data sources, biases and relying on non-human entities for potentially life-changing decisions.
Dr Barry Solaiman, Assistant Professor of Law at HBKU said it’s very important to bridge that gap between law and medicine, and that the fundamental importance of ethicists to the advancement of science is fully understood.
We need to consider how lawyers can help develop laws to ensure that science advances and that it does so in ways that protect everyone involved.’
The event was co-directed by Dr Solaiman and Dr Thurayya Arayssi, professor of clinical medicine and senior associate dean for medical education and continuing professional development at WCM-Q.
Dr Arayssi said she is very grateful that expert speakers joined to explore how legal frameworks can be developed to maximise the benefits of advances in stem cell research and AI for patients, while also respecting the rights, safety and cultural traditions of everyone in the community.
The event was accredited locally by Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners-Accreditation Department and by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. Visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu.