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OBJECTIVE: Identifying ethical concerns with ML applications to healthcare (ML-HCA) before problems arise is now a stated goal of ML design oversight groups and regulatory agencies. Lack of accepted standard methodology for ethical analysis, however, presents challenges. In this case study, we evaluate use of a stakeholder "values-collision" approach to identify consequential ethical challenges associated with an ML-HCA for advanced care planning (ACP). Identification of ethical challenges could guide revision and improvement of the ML-HCA.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted semistructured interviews of the designers, clinician-users, affiliated administrators, and patients, and inductive qualitative analysis of transcribed interviews using modified grounded theory.
RESULTS: Seventeen stakeholders were interviewed. Five "values-collisions"-where stakeholders disagreed about decisions with ethical implications-were identified: (1) end-of-life workflow and how model output is introduced; (2) which stakeholders receive predictions; (3) benefit-harm trade-offs; (4) whether the ML design team has a fiduciary relationship to patients and clinicians; and, (5) how and if to protect early deployment research from external pressures, like news scrutiny, before research is completed.
DISCUSSION: From these findings, the ML design team prioritized: (1) alternative workflow implementation strategies; (2) clarification that prediction was only evaluated for ACP need, not other mortality-related ends; and (3) shielding research from scrutiny until endpoint driven studies were completed.
CONCLUSION: In this case study, our ethical analysis of this ML-HCA for ACP was able to identify multiple sites of intrastakeholder disagreement that mark areas of ethical and value tension. These findings provided a useful initial ethical screening.