The artificial pancreas combines a hormone infusion pump with a continuous glucose monitoring device, supported by a dosing algorithm currently installed on the pump. It allows for dynamic infusions of insulin (and possibly other hormones such as glucagon) tailored to patient needs. For patients with type 1 diabetes the artificial pancreas has been shown to prevent more effectively hypoglycaemic events and hyperglycaemia than insulin pump therapy and has the potential to simplify care. However, the potential ethical issues associated with the upcoming integration of the artificial pancreas into clinical practice have not yet been discussed. Our objective was to identify and articulate ethical issues associated with artificial pancreas use for patients, healthcare professionals, industry and policymakers. We performed a literature review to identify clinical, psychosocial and technical issues raised by the artificial pancreas and subsequently analysed them through a common bioethics framework. We identified five sensitive domains of ethical issues. Patient confidentiality and safety can be jeopardized by the artificial pancreas’ vulnerability to security breaches or unauthorized data sharing. Public and private coverage of the artificial pancreas could be cost-effective and warranted. Patient selection criteria need to ensure equitable access and sensitivity to patient-reported outcomes. Patient coaching and support by healthcare professionals or industry representatives could help foster realistic expectations in patients. Finally, the artificial pancreas increases the visibility of diabetes and could generate issues related to personal identity and patient agency. The timely consideration of these issues will optimize the technological development and clinical uptake of the artificial pancreas.
Quintal A, Messier V, Rabasa-Lhoret R, Racine E. A critical review and analysis of ethical issues associated with the artificial pancreas. Diabetes Metab. 2018 Apr 25. pii: S1262-3636(18)30080-6. doi:10.1016/j.diabet.2018.04.003