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The computer says no: AI, health law, ethics and patient safety

22 July 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 14


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses some recent reports on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in the context of law, ethics and patient safety


Law students are often asked in job interviews how they think AI will influence and change legal practice. This question conjures up in the mind images of robot judges and lawyers. We have self-driving cars, why not automated justice? Feed your case into a computer and out comes a ruling? Surely absolute justice has been given here. A decision not influenced by the eloquence of the lawyers, the demeanour of the witnesses, or the environment of the courtroom—pure justice based on reason and the law, albeit machine reasoning.

The Law Society (2018) published a forward thinking, horizon scanning paper on A.I.–Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Profession. This identified several key emerging strands of AI development and use: Q&A chatbots, document analysis, document delivery, legal adviser support, case outcome prediction and clinical negligence analysis:

‘Fletchers, the largest UK medical negligence law firm, has teamed up with the University of Liverpool with the aim of creating a clinical negligence ‘robot lawyer’—in practice, a decision support system which reviews similar previous cases. The project has the support of a £225,000 grant from government-backed funder Innovate UK.’

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