Medical implants

Bioethics Briefing Note

Published 19/06/2019

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This briefing note highlights the ethical issues raised by the use of medical implants – such as hip implants, pacemakers and glucose monitors – and the challenges faced by regulatory bodies, manufacturers, and healthcare professionals working in this area. These challenges include ensuring effective post-market surveillance of implants to monitor their safety and efficacy, and preparing for data and cybersecurity risks associated with connected implants.

Overview

  • Medical implants can be used to treat or monitor health conditions, or to restore body function.
  • High-profile cases involving failing implants causing harm to patients have triggered a review of regulation to strengthen evidence and safety requirements for implants.
  • Ethical issues arise in relation to equitable patient access to implants, the responsibilities of healthcare professionals in offering and monitoring medical implants, uncertainty about the long-term effects of implants and the problems this can pose for decision making, and liability when something goes wrong.
  • Increasingly, implants are network-enabled, which expands possibilities for data gathering, monitoring, and analysis. This also might make implants more vulnerable to error and attack.
  • Challenges for policy-makers include ensuring effective post-market surveillance of implants, promoting innovation that addresses patient need, and preparing for data and cybersecurity risks associated with connected implants.

Read the briefing note.

Project team

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Catherine Joynson

Assistant Director

Catherine is part of the senior management team. She is responsible for leading a range of Council projects including the active response programme (e.g. Bioethics briefing notes) and its horizon scanning work. Catherine speaks on behalf of the Council on a range of ethical issues.

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Ran Svenning Berg

Research Officer (Maternity leave)

Ranveig undertakes research to support the Council’s work and monitors developments in areas of interest to the Council. Prior to this she was the Communications Officer at the Council, and before that managed communications at the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and completed a BA in Development Studies and International Relations at London Metropolitan University.

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Arzoo Ahmed

Research Officer (maternity cover)

Arzoo is undertaking research as part of the Council’s active response programme and its horizon scanning work. Prior to joining the Council, Arzoo was director at the Centre for Islam and Medicine and a research associate at the Office for Public Management. Arzoo is completing an MA in philosophy at King’s College London, and graduated with a BA in Physics and an MPhil in Medieval Arabic Thought from the University of Oxford.

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