Understanding the ethical and legal considerations of Digital Pathology.
Coulter C., McKay F., Hallowell N., Browning L., Colling R., Macklin P., Sorell T., Aslam M., Bryson G., Treanor D., Verrill C.
Digital Pathology (DP) is a platform which has the potential to develop a truly integrated and global pathology community. The generation of DP data at scale creates novel challenges for the histopathology community in managing, processing, and governing the use of these data. The current understanding of, and confidence in, the legal and ethical aspects of DP by pathologists is unknown. We developed an electronic survey (e-survey), comprising 22 questions, with input from the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) Digital Pathology Working Group. The e-survey was circulated via e-mail and social media (Twitter) through the RCPath Digital Pathology Working Group network, RCPath Trainee Committee network, the Pathology image data Lake for Analytics, Knowledge and Education (PathLAKE) digital pathology consortium, National Pathology Imaging Co-operative (NPIC), local contacts, and to the membership of both The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland and the British Division of the International Academy of Pathology (BDIAP). Between 14 July 2020 and 6 September 2020, we collected 198 responses representing a cross section of histopathologists, including individuals with experience of DP research. We ascertained that, in the UK, DP is being used for diagnosis, research, and teaching, and that the platform is enabling data sharing. Our survey demonstrated that there is often a lack of confidence and understanding of the key issues of consent, legislation, and ethical guidelines. Of 198 respondents, 82 (41%) did not know when the use of digital scanned slide images would fall under the relevant legislation and 93 (47%) were 'Not confident at all' in their interpretation of consent for scanned slide images in research. With increasing uptake of DP, a working knowledge of these areas is essential but histopathologists often express a lack of confidence in these topics. The need for specific training in these areas is highlighted by the findings of this study.