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Robots and Artificial Intelligence in Health Care

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Robots and Artificial Intelligence in Health Care


Ian R. Kerr

University of Ottawa – Common Law Section

Jason Millar

University of Ottawa

Noel Corriveau



August 17, 2017




“The infiltration of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in the health sector is imminent. Existing and new laws and policies will require careful analysis to ensure the beneficial use of robotics and AI, and to answer glaring questions such as, “when is it appropriate to substitute machines for caregivers?” This article begins part one by offering an overview of the current use of robots and AI in healthcare: from surgical robots, exoskeletons and prosthetics to artificial organs, pharmacy and hospital automation robots. Part one ends by examining social robots and the role of Big Data analytics. In part two, key sociotechnical considerations are discussed, and we examine their impact on medical practice overall, as the understanding and decision-making processes evolve to use AI and robots. In addition, the social valence considerations and the evidenced-based paradox both raise important policy questions related to the appropriateness of delegating human tasks to machines, and the necessary changes in the assessment of liability and negligence. In part three, we address the legal considerations around liability for robots and AI, for physicians, and for institutions using robots and AI as well as AI and robots as medical devices. Key considerations regarding negligence in medical malpractice come into play, and will necessitate an evolution in the duty and standard of care amidst the emergence of technology. Legal liability will also need to evolve as we inquire into whether a physician choosing to rely on their skills, knowledge and judgement over an AI or robot recommendation should be held liable and negligent. Finally, this paper addresses the legal, labour and economic implications that come into play when assessing whether robots should be considered employees of a health care institution, and the potential opening of the door to vicarious liability.”


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