In this conversation we chat to Dr Piers Gooding about the legal and ethical challenges surrounding the use of chatbots and AI in mental health.
The rapid rise of AI has prompted some crucial questions about its use in the mental health setting: what are the privacy implications of sharing sensitive information to chatbots? How is that data being tracked across these platforms, how is it being stored and protected – and are chatbots bound by the same professional standards as a human therapist?
In this episode of Digital Mental Health Musings, we chat to renowned socio-legal researcher Dr Piers Gooding about the legal and ethical challenges surrounding the use of chatbots and AI in mental health – what we should be cautious about, what we can learn from cases across health systems from around the world, and what existing legal and regulatory frameworks we can apply in the assessment of the tools.
In Australia a focus on publicly funded digital mental health platforms, developed with medical and educational institutions and co-designed with people with lived experience, has seen critical, evidence-based mental health interventions reach people that might otherwise have been locked out of mental healthcare within traditional settings.
Importantly, these free or low-cost national services have undergone rigorous evaluation within a medical ethical framework, explains Dr Gooding.
But increasingly, and particularly since the pandemic, more people are being exposed to commercial digital mental healthcare fuelled by powerful algorithms and big tech that have been developed outside of the healthcare setting and without the promised duty of care that the healthcare system brings.
While health professionals are governed by their own ethical obligations, how do they help clients navigate products and services developed by companies and individuals that may operate through a different ethical lens?
Describing cases from the US, UK and Sweden Dr Gooding highlights some of the key legal challenges that consumers and health professionals can be aware of when exposed to commercialised digital health products – like data trading and privacy, informed consent and misinformation. He also discusses the ways Australia is already meeting these challenges head on to set best practice standards around digital mental health.
Who is Dr Piers Gooding?
Dr Piers Gooding is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne Law School. He is a socio-legal researcher looking at disability and mental health-related law and policy. Piers is the author of A New Era for Mental Health Law and Policy: Supported Decision Making and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2017) with Cambridge University Press and services on the editorial board of the International Journal for Mental Health and Capacity Law and the International Journal of Disability and Social Justice. Piers has acted as a board member and advisor in a range of local, national and international bodies working on the rights of disabled people, and has advised policy-makers at national and international levels. This includes collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur for the Rights of People with Disabilities, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health and the World Psychiatric Association.
Check out some of the resources we discussed in this episode:
Read more of Dr Piers Gooding’s work here: https://law.unimelb.edu.au/about/staff/piers-gooding
Watch our episode about the Digital Mental Health Safety and Quality Standards: https://www.emhprac.org.au/resource/s3e2/
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