Home / Health / Freiburg: Ethical Problems in Virtual Reality in Medicine – Researchers at Freiburg University Hospital urge to use sensitive use of virtual reality opportunities in medicine and healthcare

Freiburg: Ethical Problems in Virtual Reality in Medicine – Researchers at Freiburg University Hospital urge to use sensitive use of virtual reality opportunities in medicine and healthcare



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Dementia, anxiety disorders, stroke: The range of potential applications of virtual reality (VR) is growing rapidly. Thus, a simulation of their original environment can have a calming effect on dementia patients in the nursing home. "In principle, positive effects can be achieved with virtual reality," says neurologist Dr. with. Philipp Kellmeyer, Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Freiburg and Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (FRIAS). But he also warns: “Often patients' special needs are not sufficiently addressed. For example, if dementia patients can no longer distinguish between reality and fiction, this is a serious disruption of their autonomy. "Together with colleagues from the Netherlands and Switzerland, he published an article in the journal Nature Medicine on July 29, 201
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" The boundary between reality and VR is becoming blurry ":
VR applications are also tested in the treatment of eating disorders and ADHD (ADHD) and in forensic psychiatry. "Although you can in principle imagine that VR applications have very positive effects. How virtual reality works cognitively and emotionally on those affected, but is still barely studied. And the boundary between reality and VR is becoming blurred," says Kellmeyer. [19659003] The neurologist sees three important risks in the application:
– The requirement for persuasion of VR simulation can be used for therapeutic purposes that are ultimately based on an illusion or illusion. This instrumentalization limits patients' autonomy and is sometimes problematic in terms of human dignity.
– The VR application aims at a change in behavior of the user from which the user cannot escape. This jeopardizes autonomous decision-making.
– The user builds emotional ties to virtual characters, so-called avatars, and accepts them as assumed real people. This can lead to a social withdrawal from the real world.

Previous participation of patients in development:
These problems can be solved in different ways. "Technological solutions should only be used where the problems cannot be solved politically or socially," says Kellmeyer. To make new applications more user-centric, Kellmeyer and colleagues suggest that patients should be included early in the development process. "We should move from developer-driven to patient-driven innovations."

(Press release: Freiburg University Hospital, 08.08.2019)


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