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Ethical assessment of a hospital disinfection robot

McGinn, Conor; Scott, Robert; Donnelly, Niamh; Cullinan, Michael F.; Winfield, Alan; Treusch, Pat


Conor McGinn

Robert Scott

Niamh Donnelly

Michael F. Cullinan

Pat Treusch


Robots have the potential to deliver very positive impacts for society, however, it's critical that in preparing for real-world deployments, we recognize and take steps to mitigate against the potential harms, both direct and indirect, that they may cause. In this paper, we explore how the ethics canvas (EC) and the ethical risk assessment (ERA) methodology defined in British Standard 8611 can be combined to better align robot technologies with ethics and their socio-cultural context of operation. We illustrate this through a practical case-study involving the real-world introduction of a disinfection robot to a radiology department in a European hospital. Using the EC, we identified 49 distinct ways that the technology was likely to impact key stakeholders and 11 ways that failure or misuse of the technology was likely to impact service provision. From this data, 8 mitigating measures were identified. Then, using the ERA tool, 9 risks were identified that were considered to represent a high likelihood of occurrence. From these insights, a further 8 mitigation measures were proposed. The combined use of both tools was found to be complementary, since the EC fostered a bottom-up, subjective critical thinking process whereas the ERA provided a broader, more top-down objective view. This example provides a practical template for robotics practitioners to better understand and manage the ethical and socio-cultural dimensions of their work, and contributes towards the standardization of ethical assessments in robotics with an emphasis on the move from principles to practice.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (published)
Conference Name 2023 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)
Acceptance Date Jan 17, 2023
Online Publication Date Jul 4, 2023
Publication Date Jul 4, 2023
Deposit Date Dec 15, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jul 5, 2025
Journal Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation
Print ISSN 1050-4729
Publisher Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 12008-12014
ISBN 9798350323658
Keywords Training , Ethics, Automation, Hospitals , Europe, Radiology , Stakeholders
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