Why digital ethics matter

We increasingly use and develop new digital and data-driven technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. The collection and processing of data by algorithmic systems affects how every single one of us lives and works. 
In its wake: a whole new set of ethical questions. Regulatory frameworks are expected to be developed in the future. At the moment, however, legislation in this critical area is limited. Digital ethics is still a young field.

At our company, we want to take a pioneering role. We believe that digital technologies require reliable ethical standards and that these standards should guide our daily business in the digital age. That’s why we have created a dedicated Digital Ethics Group, our Digital Ethics Advisory Panel and our Code of Digital Ethics.

Digital ethics at our company

In anticipation of the ethical challenges of digitalization, our company has issued a digital ethics mandate. This mandate is driven by our values and long-established bioethical approach, which has consistently enabled us to develop breakthrough innovations based on sound ethical considerations. Since 2020, we have embedded a dedicated digital ethics group within our organization.

This group enables our sectors and businesses to operate from a solid ethical position. With the help of the Digital Ethics Advisory Panel (DEAP) and the CoDE, we thus enable responsible innovation and digital business models.

We aim to position ourselves as the “digital ethics company”, meeting rigorous ethical standards in critical areas such as the handling of health data.

Jean Enno Charton

Director Digital Ethics & Bioethics, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

DEAP

The Digital Ethics Advisory Panel builds on our experience with our Ethics Advisory Panel for Science and Technology. 
It follows a similar concept and unites renowned academic and industry experts in digital ethics, law and regulation, big data, digital health, medicine, and data governance from the US and Europe. 

The DEAP is appointed by the Executive Board. Panel members act as advisors – they assess complex ethical challenges related to data and AI and subsequently provide independent guidance. All employees may submit topics to the DEAP.

The panel members act as advisors, provide assessment and independent guidance on complex ethical questions in the areas of data and artificial intelligence.

  • Prof. Effy Vayena

    ETH Zürich

  • Esther Bleicher

    Hello Heart
    Former FDA official

  • Dr. George Demetri

    Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

  • Dr. John Baldoni

    ATOM Research Alliance

  • Dr. John Halamka

    Mayo Clinic

  • Dr. Kadija Ferryman

    Johns Hopkins University

  • Prof. Jeremy Sugarman

    Johns Hopkins University
    Guest Advisor, Bioethics

  • Claire Saxton

    Cancer Support Community (CSC)
    Guest Advisor, Patient Perspectiv

  • Walid Mehanna

    Chief Data and AI Officer
    Chair

The Code

At our company, people are at the center of everything we do. Our goal is to create digital innovations that have a positive impact. That's why we've developed our Code of Digital Ethics. This code results from a scientific analysis and evaluation, described and published in a peer-reviewed paper. It goes beyond applicable laws and regulations and serves as a moral compass. The CoDE comprises five core principles: autonomy, justice, beneficence, non-maleficence, and transparency. 

It enables us to assess the ethical aspects of data use and algorithms in digital products and business models and make responsible decisions. The CoDE also forms the basis for the Digital Ethics Advisory Panel evaluation of ethical issues related to our digital efforts.

THE PRACTICAL IMPLEMENTATION OF DIGITAL ETHICS

PaRA is a formal ethics review tool. It is based on the CoDE that we have developed and is used to analyze, for example, business practices or new products in an early development phase. The tool’s assessment is reviewed by the DEAP.

The PaRA:

  • helps the Digital Ethics Office analyze problem statements.
  • determines which CoDE principles are affected each time.
  • documents the ethical assessment process.
  • guides discussions with the DEAP.

Through Syntropy, we help data creators (e.g., cancer centers) structure their data so they can share or license it to interested parties. We facilitate access to these datasets to collaborators - without ever owning or having access to the data.

Our business approached the Digital Ethics Advisory Panel with the following ethical concern: Is Syntropy responsible for cancer centers’ protection of patient data?

The DEAP advised Syntropy to

  • regularly check the reputation of its business partners
  • drive transparency and customer literacy by reaching out to e.g. patient representatives and advocacy groups
  • develop new consent standards

One of our data intelligence and analytics units processes 700+ use cases that are in constant development. At this scale, they cannot be assessed individually.

Solution: A rule-based in-process scoring system, which provides an ethical risk score and proposes mitigation measures.

Training

Want to learn more?

We expect each and every employee to take responsibility and ethically handle data and digital activities. That’s why we have developed a mandatory training, which is anchored within the individual training plans. Want to learn more? Then take our Advanced Digital Ethics Training and share it!

Go to training More info
Training Training
  • OnePager

    Our Code of Digital Ethics, summarized for your convenience.

    Download
  • Paper

    More information about the research approach used to design the CoDE.

    Download
  • Full Version

    The complete CoDE.

    Download

Questions or Inputs?

Have any questions or feedback for us? We'd love to hear it. Contact us at ethics@emdgroup.com

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