Workshop: Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects of Healthcare Robotics

Workshop: Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects of Healthcare Robotics

Workshop organizers

Sanja Dogramadzi, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, UK
Giancarlo Ferrigno, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Nicola Vitiello, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy
Nunzio Alberto Borghese, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy
Antonia Tzemanaki, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, UK
Eduard Fosch Villaronga, University of Twente, Law, Governance and Technology Department
Christoph Lutz, Nordic Centre for Internet & Society, BI Norwegian Business School
Aurelia Tamò, University of Zurich, Chair for Information and Communication Law

Date and Place

March 24th 10:45-15:30, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Brief of the session

This ERF session brings together the three robotics and health related projects funded in the H2020 ICT-26 andICT-25 Calls in April 2017: SMARTsurg, CYBERLEGs Plus Plus and MOVECARE. They cover three of the main aspects of health related robotics: rehabilitation, surgery and assisted living. All of them consider users (professional experts and beneficiaries) in the loop, therefore, raising regulatory issues and ELSA (Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects) related to the level of autonomy associated with the robotic system and the user interaction and perception of the service that such a system can provide.

The three projects, building on the previous experiences, are at the forefront of the research in the field, sharing ELSA considerations in the three paradigmatic health scenarios. Each scenario considers robotic systems acting with or inside the patient, the fact that raises issues and can delay the deployment and commercialisation process.

The above considerations will be widely examined and discussed in this workshop thanks to the participation of researchers, industrial partners, ELSA experts and healthcare experts (end users). The session will be divided in short presentations addressing the healthcare needs and solutions proposed in the three projects (robot-assisted surgery, physiotherapy, augmentation of residual movement abilities, and assisted living), the issues related to the levels of autonomy in healthcare robotics and ELSA, and the barriers encountered by spin-offs in the field (regulatory aspects, clinical trials, EU vs. non EU competition etc.) followed by a round table open to the audience for discussion.

Motivation and objective

Healthcare is the second major expenditure, in terms of GDP percentage, of the Member States (EUROSTAT 2014), accounting for up to 11% of GDP and 15% of general government expenditure. This is expected to further increase due to the increase of the elderly population (by 2060, the median age of the EU-27’s population is projected to rise to 47.6 years, from about 41 in 2010, and 29.5% of the population will be 65 years of age or over, compared to 17.4% in 2010, Eurostat 2010) and the simultaneous lack of healthcare experts and carers. Estimated costs of such an increasing population indicate an enormous economic burden caused by falls in old age, while the total estimated worldwide costs of dementia were US$ 604 billion in 2010, one third of which belonged to Western Europe, being the region with the highest number of people with dementia (7.0 million) (World Health Organization 2012). 46% of the total costs of injury related hospital admissions concern people above the age of 65 (S. Polinder et. al and the EUROCOST reference group, Cost Estimation of Injury-Related Hospital Admissions in 10 European Countries, J Trauma. 59:1283–1291, 2005). Thus, dementia is already imposing huge economic burdens, both through direct (medical and social care) and hidden costs (unpaid caregiving by families and friends). Hence, there is an increasing necessity for a government strategy to develop and improve services for elderly people, with an emphasis on earlier diagnosis, and effective interventions promoting an active and healthy ageing. Furthermore, during 2016-2020, the global rehabilitation robots market is expected to grow steadily at a compound annual growth rate of 25% (Global rehabilitation Robots Market, Technavio).

At the same time, minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has changed the landscape of peri-operative surgical care over the last three decades, while robot-assisted surgical systems have been increasingly used in MIS procedures over the past ten years. While the case of their use is complex, it is strongly expected that there will be an increasing number of different procedures carried out using telerobotic technology in the coming decade (SPARC, Strategic Research Agenda for Robotics in Europe, 2014-2020). The global MIS market, which was valued at US$25.03 billion in 2012, will reach a worth of US$50.60 billion by 2019 (Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2013 – 2019). The special report “Healthcare Robotics 2015-2020: Trends, Opportunities & Challenges” from the Robotics Business Review predicts that the global surgical robotics market is expected to reach $19.96 billion by 2019.

How to participate

The workshop aims to address the ELSA of social robots in healthcare, and in rehabilitation, surgery and assistive robotics in particular. Before the workshop, participants are encouraged to write a one-page abstract related to one of the 3 main topics and send it to

  • Topic 1: ELS challenges for Rehabilitation Robotics
  • Topic 2: ELS challenges for Surgery Robots
  • Topic 3: ELS challenges for Assistive Robots

Participants can attend the workshop without contributing with an abstract.

The organizers will prepare case studies to frame the discussions of the workshop and will also include participants’ contributions. These cases studies will be provided in a booklet with relevant information for the participants.

Full Forum Schedule

View the Full Forum Schedule.

  • Workshop Introduction – Maria Chiara Carrozza
  • Keynote Speaker 1 (ELSA) – Andrea Bartolini
  • Keynote Speaker 2 (Robotics Industry) – Joel Van Den Bosch
  • Keynote Speaker 3 (Non-robotics industry) – Freygarður Þorsteinsson
  • Keynote Speaker 4 (Human-robot interaction) – Vicky Charisi
  • Three topics introduction – Alberto Borghese, Nicola Vitiello, Sanja Dogramadzi
  • Round table discussion topic 1 – moderators: Alberto Borghese, Jonathan Gomez-Raja
  • Round table presentations (1) – Eduard Fosch Villaronga

Lunch break

  • Keynote Speaker 5 (End users) – Ottavio De Cobelli
  • Round table discussion topic 2 – moderator: Nicola Vitiello, Giancarlo Ferrigno
  • Round table presentations (2) – Aurelia Tamò
  • Round table discussion topic 3 – moderators: Sanja Dogramadzi, Emmanuel Papacostas
  • Round table presentations (3) – Sanja Dogramadzi
  • Wrap up and final debriefing – Maria Chiara Carrozza

Maria Chiara Carrozza, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Robotics, former Italian Minister of Education and Research, current member of the Italian Parliament

Research representatives

Sanja Dogramadzi, Associate Professor, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, University of the West of England, UK
Nicola Vitiello, Associate Professor, The BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy
Nunzio Alberto Borghese, Professor, Applied Intelligent Systems Laboratory, Università degli studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
Giancarlo Ferrigno, Professor, NearLab, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Zoe Doulgeri, Professor, Automation and Robotics Laboratory, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
Dimitrios Tzovaras, Visiting Professor Imperial College London, Director of Information Technologies Institute, Greece
Vicky Charisi, HRI researcher, University of Twente, the Netherlands

Robotics industry and innovation representatives

Roberto Conti, R&D senior, IUVO S.r.l.
Joel Van Den Bosch, Business Development Manager, Cybernetix, France

Non-robotics industry

Freygarður Þorsteinsson, R&D Engineer, Ossur, Iceland

ELSA representatives

Andrea Bertolini, Assistant Professor in Private Law, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna
Jonathan Gomez-Raja, Health and Socio-sanitary Policy advisor, Government of Extremadura, Spain
Dimosthenis Ioannidis, Ethics, Safety and Privacy advisor, Center for Research and Technology Hellas, Greece

End users representatives

Ottavio De Cobelli, Associate Professor, University of Milan – Italy, Director of Minimally Invasive Prostate Treatment Program
Emmanuel Papacostas, Orthopaedic surgeon, TheMIS, Thessaloniki, Greece
Andrea Russo, Urologic surgeon, IEO, Milan, Italy


This workshop is supported by the following projects, funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme:

  • SMARTsurg (grant agreement No 732515)
    Follow us @SMARTsurg
  • CYBERLEGs Plus Plus (grant agreement No 731931)
  • MOVECARE (grant agreement No 732158)
Sponsors and Collaborator
Visit the SMARTsurg website
Visit the MOVECARE website
Visit the CYBERLEGs website