Is it ethical to use medical software for other purposes than health?

Dear Orthanc community,

At OrthancCon 2019 I will present RadioLogic, a system to create clinical cases from real-world DICOM files.
It provides a self-assessment tool to view the studies, submit a diagnosis and compare the performance with peers.
The main components are a progressive web application and an Orthanc plugin to create and serve the teaching cases.
The user selects a learning module, views the cases, submits his diagnosis and checks the results.
The teacher selects a patient, study, series or instance inside an Orthanc server to start the creation of a clinical case.
He enters the case-name, the multiple choices for possible diagnoses and the correct answer.
Explanations about the correct diagnosis are shown in a picture uploaded by the teacher.

The Orthanc ecosystem and the RadioLogic tools are not limited to store, to view and to assess knowledge to interpret medical images.
Technically we can use pictures presenting any real-world problem with a related question and use DICOM tags, or Orthanc metadata, to store the correct answer.
A simple example is an e-learning quizz.
Such quizzes are widespread on the Internet and related to all sort of topics: IQ tests, STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), general knowledge, trivia or even fun.
The answer types of these quizzes could be multiple-choice, true/false or open-ended.

I ask myself whether it is ethical to use medical software for other purposes than health?

I would appreciate to get your opinion about this topic.


Marco Barnig

Dear Marco,

We’re looking forward to your presentation at OrthancCon!

Regarding your question, by definition, free software licenses (including the GPL/AGPL family that is used by Orthanc) are specifically designed to prevent limiting the freedom of using the software for specific applications. Please check out this entry in the GPL FAQ:

The “ethical” considerations are left to the developer who would make derived use of the software, of course provided the other requirements of the GPL/AGPL licenses are met.


Dear Marco,

I don't see anything that could be unethical in what you want to do.

I think it's pretty good to extends software capabilities over for what it has been originally designed.
Plenty of software has turned into field that wasn't expected, take the example of Linux it was designed as a desktop OS and it now dominate the world everywhere, except the desktop market.

Go head and don't hesitate to make unexpected usage of software, that's a good way for innovation and especially building teaching tool is a highly ethical topic.


Thank you Sébastien for the clarifications.

Thank you Salim for the encouragement.

Opinions from other developers and users are welcome.

Marco Barnig

I don’t think ethics even come into it. Even when we talk about ethics in software it usually relates to harvesting and misusing personal use data.

In your case you are using it simply to impart knowledge for people to learn. That is a highly ethical use case :ok_hand: