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Ducharme Lecture Examines AI Use in Healthcare Through a Catholic Lens

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts

Since the explosion of generative artificial intelligence (AI), Mount St. Mary’s University has been abuzz with discussions about its many applications.

scherz-in-text.jpgTo date, the Mount has welcomed lectures on the effects AI has on human relationships, how it adds and detracts from learning processes, and most recently, its limitations.

On March 13, the Mount will welcome Paul Scherz, Ph.D, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, to deliver this year’s Spring Ducharme Lecture, titled Persons, Population, and Data: Al and Catholic Healthcare Ethics. In his talk, Scherz will investigate the implications of AI from a human perspective, not merely a technological or economic one.

From car insurance and mortgage rates to social media feeds and search engine results, our online presence is monitored and moderated by algorithms. Algorithms offer us “destinations” and leave the “journey” of research to the machine. This harbors unintended consequences. Social media sites, for example, use algorithms to maximize engagement, but to maintain relevancy and revenue, algorithms use addictive strategies to retain users. And if this is just what AI does on social media, what does AI mean for the healthcare industry?

Scherz earned doctorates from Harvard University and the University of Notre Dame in genetics and moral theology, respectively, giving him unique qualifications in the field of bioethics. He recently co-edited The Evening of Life: The Challenges of Aging and Dying Well, a book that explores the healthcare industry and the limitations of science in preparing for death. He argues that the scientific revolution has removed philosophy, religion and civic culture from discussions of aging and dying, which has in turn eroded human dignity.

In his talk, Scherz will weave his knowledge of stoicism and Christian ethics into the struggles of aging, end-of-life care, and the application of AI to these areas of life. Applying AI to assist in making decisions about withdrawing treatment puts computers in control of life and death decisions. AI may be a tool that can help ease the demands of the world’s already overburdened healthcare system, but there are dire implications to the overuse of this tool.

The 2024 Spring Ducharme Lecture will take place on Wednesday, March 13 at 4 p.m. in Knott Auditorium. The biannual Ducharme Lecture Series, named for Mount Professor Emeritus of English Robert Ducharme, fosters discussions in fields related to the humanities and liberal arts. The series was founded and is funded by Raphael Della Ratta, C’92.

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts