UT Southwestern Events Calendar

"Race and Ethics in the Design of Biomedical Technologies: The Pulse Oximeter as a Case in Point" 

The Daniel W. Foster, M.D. Visiting Lectureship in Medical Ethics (in conjunction with Ethics Grand Rounds)

Speaker: Rosalyn Berne, Ph.D.
The Anne Shirley Carter Olsson Professor of Applied Ethics
Department of Engineering and Society, School of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Virginia

Abstract:  There were clear indications from studies done in 2005 and 2007 that pulse oximeters overestimate arterial oxygen saturation during hypoxia in dark-skinned individuals. And yet, years later, the device remains essentially unaltered. This disregard has been particularly significant during the coronavirus pandemic. Patients diagnosed with Covid-19 who present with silent hypoxemia, but are not sick enough to warrant hospital admission, have been guided to monitor their arterial oxygenation by pulse oximetry at home, and present for care when they show evidence of hypoxemia. Others in the general public have used the device simply for personal assurance. Whether or not these uses are appropriate is debatable. Nevertheless, that a racial bias is embedded in this technology is indisputable. The pulse oximeter serves as a timely case in point of how race can become a matter of ethics in the design of biomedical devices.

CME: This activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™ in Medical Ethics and/or Professional Responsibility.

CNE: UT Southwestern is accredited as a provider of nursing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation. This activity will award one (1) contact hour.

For additional information, please refer to the announcement.

Ruth Vinciguerra | Email

Event Details

  • Chet Wells
  • Marlene Corton

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How to Join: This lecture will be conducted via Zoom. While there is no registration fee, you must register to participate in this webinar. Upon registration, you will receive the Zoom event ID and link for the webinar. To register, please click this link.

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