Transcripts from ‘Medical Case Against the WEF’ panel from our recent ‘The Left Case Against the WEF‘ conference. Featuring Emily Garcia, Vikki Spit and Dr Clare Craig.
Chair: Emily Garcia has been part of Real Left, formerly Left Lockdown Sceptics from early February 2021, and has written multiple articles for the site. Her lived experience using nutrition and alternative medicine to treat her health issues, helped inform her opposition to the global response to Covid, along with her radical feminist political worldview. Emily is speaking today in the capacity of a lay researcher and writer and allopathy sceptic.
Emily: The reason I’m sitting on this panel today is to make the case that the World Economic Forum, along with other institutions and actors of and for global capital, have captured our NHS with their Great Reset or 4th industrial revolution agendas. This capture, goes back at least several decades, but the rollout has been rapidly picking up steam since the first lockdown of 2020.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde; there’s only one thing worse than talking about the orchestrated healthcare revolution to a new global system of human capital and data extraction, within a physical-digital matrix of SMART technology; for the benefit of the Capitalist class in the new impact economy, and that’s not talking about it.
And just in case there is anyone in the audience who is none the wiser as to what I mean by the fourth industrial revolution, the World Economic Forum, or WEF for short, gives the following definition on their website. ‘The advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines. While these capabilities are reliant on the technologies and infrastructure of the Third Industrial Revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution represents entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies, and even our human bodies. Examples include genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence, breakthrough materials and approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as the blockchain.’ End quote.
So to make a ‘medical case against the WEF’ I think there are 3 central questions that need to be answered. Firstly; is there evidence that fourth industrial revolution technologies are rolling out in health and social care in the UK? Secondly; is there evidence of direct interference from WEF members in NHS policy-making to achieve these ends? And thirdly, if this is the case, are these transformations actually a bad thing for us? I’m going to argue-and I hope by the end of my talk you will agree-that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes.
I’m attempting to cover a very broad and deep subject so, in 15 minutes, I’m not going to be able to do more than frame a snapshot. It won’t be a comprehensive picture. I will leave certain things out. I do plan to write a series of articles on this, which will go up on the Real Left website with the references.
2012 seems to have been something of a watershed year for healthcare transformation. The January Davos WEF meeting, ‘The Great Transformation: Shaping New models,’ was followed later in the year with workshops in London to ‘start national conversations about transforming health systems’, according to Schwab in his introduction to the report ‘Sustainable Health Systems: Visions, Strategies, Critical Uncertainties and Scenarios.’ The report states: ‘big data has arrived for our economies and societies.’ It goes on: ‘the three themes of embracing data and information, innovating healthcare delivery, and building healthy cities and countries stand out as promising.’ Innovation of healthcare, we learn, will involve the home as the primary locus of care, enabled by remote diagnosis, treatment & monitoring. Quote: ‘Cultural norms, urban planning, the environment, choices in food and drink, how children are parented and educated, personal and professional development throughout our lives, and work-life balance must all evolve in a mutually supporting web to create a new age of healthy behaviours.’
In case irresponsible health slackers or ‘late adopters,’ in their terminology, feel tempted to reject participation in this tightly controlled utopian vision, one of the possible projected scenarios- the ‘New Social Contract,’ sets out: ‘Governments maintain publicly funded health systems in exchange for a greater regulation of lifestyles. Healthy living becomes a civic duty, with individuals sharing responsibility for their health as part of being a good citizen, similar to obeying the law. Health also becomes a human right. . .Data allow the measurement of “health footprints” or health impact assessments for organizations, communities and individuals. Explicit targets are set for healthy lifestyles, with strong incentives for compliance.’ These include linking ‘predictive models with consumption data, e.g. Tesco cards for an up to date idea of patient’s risks’. Even more unsettlingly, the report states governance for health in 2040 might be transferred to the supranational level. Does this mean a global Big Health Brother social credit system?
Contributors to this report includes a generous handful of NHS senior management employees as well as ministers from the Dept of Health and HM Treasury, the WHO, and Directors of Health at the World Bank.
Simon Stevens, the project steward of the Steering Group, one year post publication became Chief Executive of the NHS; a role he held until 2021.
Under Steven’s leadership, at the start of the pandemic or plandemic, (depending on your perspective), NHS Confederation, in partnership with WEF partner Novartis, launched the NHS ‘Reset’ campaign. In the report ‘NHS Reset: A New Direction For Health & Care,’ they speak enthusiastically about ‘all that covid 19 has enabled them to do’ in using the NHS as an ‘anchor institution’ to drive local economic growth around digital innovation. They say, ‘changes that would have taken years have been delivered in weeks,’ and, ‘Rather than reverting back to ‘business as usual’, we should seek to create a ‘new normal,’ which involves locking in the adoption of new technologies, the ‘bypassing of the rulebook’ (i.e: staff taking on roles outside of their training), as well as the permissive/enabling regulatory environment for the approval of drugs, digital technologies, equipment, and guidance.
Another contributor to the WEF ‘Sustainable Health Systems’ report, was Michael Macdonell, a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Health Policy and Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College.
Going back to Summer of 2012, this Institute held a Global Health Policy summit. Some of the key themes from the reports they subsequently released include: changing the role of the patient from a ‘liability’ to an ‘asset’; blurring the boundaries between the formal and informal workforce, taking over the regulation of professional medical bodies, engineering social movements around specific health tech innovations such as polypills, mobilizing ‘change agents’ in patient communities to enforce ‘healthy’ behaviours; and incentivizing payments for virtual- in place of face to face- contact models and gameificiation, that is, video game applications, to increase treatment adherence and encourage health related behavior change.
Overcoming resistance to data sharing in the population crops up as a repeated concern, with recommendations given to governments to use levers of legislative change to roll back data rights. They say: ‘given the option, individuals will act in a self interested way and with-hold data information.’ It is worth noting that a ‘Data Protection and Digital Information Bill’ is currently making its way through the English legislature, which has been described by Big Brother Watch as ‘a bonfire of safeguards. . . in exchange for economic growth.’
Contributors to the summits ‘Digital Innovation’ working group include employees from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, the Wellcome Trust-a subsidiary of the Gates Foundation, and the charity NESTA-the UK’s ‘Innovation Agency for Social Good.’ Nesta now owns the UK gov Behavioural insights team, (according to the Behavioural Insights website) and both NESTA and Bill Gates are WEF listed organisations or partners, respectively.
The Institute for Global Health Innovation reports mention social impact bonds and social impact investments, in the context of making healthcare systems ‘financially sustainable.’
The definition of a social impact investment for the uninitiated is: investing with the specific objective of achieving positive social and/or environmental impact, as well as financial return. In a healthcare context: the investor is repaid with interest from the savings generated by the re-shaping of the old system. A social impact bond is the same thing, but the money is loaned by the investor to a government or company, in exchange for interest payments during the life of the bond.
Although the concept sounds superficially positive, in practice, it involves treating humans as interchangeable data commodities, rather than the unique and self determining beings that we are. Subjects are nudged or coerced to behave in a particular way that is considered desirable by the wealthy investor- for their ultimate profit.
Another major problem is that if the social issue at stake were actually solved, the impact market in that sector would collapse. Which potentially provides a perverse incentive to encourage socio-economic issues to proliferate. Also, the outcomes the investor sets may not actually benefit the subject in any way. In fact, it may harm them. The Institute of Global Health Innovation’s report on Maternity healthcare discusses social impact investments for getting women in developing countries like Bolivia to give birth in hospitals. As a critic of medicalised birth, I would argue home births tend to have better outcomes for mothers and babies. In any case the place of birth should be down a mother’s informed choice.
Understanding social impact investing as the linchpin of the new Fourth industrial revolution economy, is key to making sense of the relentless focus on measurable outcomes & access to data in healthcare.
The UK social impact investment market was worth £58 billion by 2020 and is in rapid ascent. According to the 2018 report Catalysing an Impact Investment Ecosystem: A Policymaker’s Toolkit, the UK has been a pioneer in the use of outcomes-based contracts, with the first Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) being created here. A 2020 report co-produced by Big Society Capital and the gov Dept for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport states that Healthcare, along with affordable and clean energy, and sustainable cities and communities, are the top focus areas for investment.
The Government Outcomes Lab website shows 12 social impact bonds either active or completed in the policy sector of ‘health.’ These include projects to reduce hospital admissions in people in care homes, and to reduce A & E admissions in drug and alcohol abusing ‘frequent attenders.’
Dramatically reducing A&E visits and replacing A&E units with Urgent Treatment Centres is one of the stated goals of the 2019 NHS Long Term Plan. I don’t have time to go into the contents of this plan in more detail, but if you read the WEF & Institute for Global Health Innovation reports, many of the planned changes set out will feel familiar. The 2022 Health & Care Act cemented key restructuring plans into legislation & attracted strong criticism from civil society.
The Long Term Plan is itself built on recommendations from the, even more hair raising, government commissioned, 2018 Topol Review.
‘Preparing the health workforce to deliver the digital future’ focuses on emerging technologies including; wearables to upload data to the electronic health records linked NHS app, and implantable and biometric sensors. It references clinical research into the use of robots to manage interpersonal conflict with children, to perform surgery, and to carry out caring duties for dementia patients, augmented and virtual reality ‘treatments’ for psychotic and dementia patients, and AI predictions of whether people are depressed from Instagram photos. In case you needed another reason to get off social media! A terrifying vision is conjured up of the future world of work, when it says, ‘an increasing range of sensors in the home and on the person will give remote clinicians access to data that would currently not even be available on an inpatient ward. . .Effectively, the workforce may become a sensor network, initially recording text, then voice, and eventually, even the staff’s physiological indicators which could drive predictive algorithms.’
Fast forward to 2023 and we have dementia patients in Surrey enrolled in an Internet of Things pilot in a public-private partnership with Howz, through the NHS test bed program. We have one of NHS England’s 10 Healthy New Towns, Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent giving out digital ‘BetterPoints’ for engaging in physical activity, which residents can swap for digital ‘vouchers;’ either to spend in local shops or to donate to charity. We have NHS England’s building design guidance ‘Putting Health Into Place’ recommending passive ventilation, or in other words, unopenable windows for schools and houses.
Friends, we must reject the unfolding National Health Prison. The question of how we resist is hopefully something we can begin to formulate together today. And I will be facilitating a discussion group later today: ‘Working Towards an alternative healthcare system.’ Thank you for listening.
You can watch Vikki’s presentation here.
Chair: Vikki lost her partner of 21 years, Zion, in July 2021, 14 days after he had taken one dose of the AstraZeneca MRNA injection. Vikki has described her loss as feeling like her whole life has been smashed into a million pieces. She was the first MRNA injection victim or bereaved to receive compensation from the Government’s Vaccine Damages Payment scheme in Summer 2022. Vikki and Zion toured for many years as bass player and vocalist, respectively, in the rock band ‘Spit like this,’ before settling down in rural Northumberland in 2014. Vikki works as a force free horse trainer. She has a strong connection to animals and enjoys spending time with her 4 dogs and horses.
Vikki: What I’m going to do is just give you a run-down of exactly what happened and what’s been happening since. There’s a lot of questions about the whole situation really. So on the 5th May 2021, Zi got the first Astrazeneca vaccine.
Zi was a ridiculously healthy person; he exercised every single day. He didn’t eat any processed foods; he didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, he didn’t do drugs. He was not worried about Covid for himself in the slightest, but he’d started doing a lot of antique dealing. And as the antique shows were starting to hopefully open up again soon, there’s a lot of elderly people at them, and he couldn’t stand the idea that he might actually make someone else sick, even though he wasn’t worried about himself. And as I’m sure you’re all very aware, we were being bombarded with, ‘don’t kill granny’ advertising.
So he had the first vaccine. Eight days after the first vaccine, he developed a headache. Ten days after, I called an ambulance for him, for the first time in 21 years. He’d never been sick really before, I’d never had to call an ambulance for him for before. Don’t think he’d even really been to the doctors much to be honest. We were told he was having a migraine. We did advise the paramedic that he’d had the Astrazeneca vaccine ten days previously, and we were told it would be nothing to do with that, as all side effects occur within the first seven days. He had never had a migraine in his life. We did query a migraine diagnosis but we were told it could be triggered by stress, and obviously everyone on the planet had been under an awful lot of stress for 18 months.
So, we were told to just stay home and take pain killers and drink fluids. I didn’t drive at the time, so if he’d gone to hospital, I couldn’t have gone with him-I wouldn’t have been able to pick him up. We live in an extremely rural location- nearest hospital’s about 40 miles away. So he stayed at home, and, symptoms just stayed pretty much the same. Got a bit better during the day, got worse at night, which we know now is because blood was pooling in his brain when he was lying down.
On the Monday he didn’t get out of bed, and when he did eventually get up quite late, his voice was slightly slurred. And I asked him if he knew his voice was slurred. He was convinced that he was fine. I sent him back to bed, bought him a cup of tea, checked on him a couple of hours later and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, he wasn’t able to speak properly anymore. I rang another ambulance. While we were waiting for it to arrive, he had a seizure. When they arrived he had another seizure. He managed to dress himself and get downstairs and get into the ambulance on his own. I gave him a kiss and told him I loved him. Again, I couldn’t go with him. I was told he’d be fine.
I rang the hospital an hour or so later, once he’d arrived there and I was told that he’d been taken for a scan. I was told to ring back in another hour, which I did. I was told the scan had showed he had a bleed on the brain. And that he was being transferred to the RVI in Newcastle, which has a specialist neurology department. I rang there and was told he was taken directly to the ward. I rang the ward and was told he’d actually gone straight to surgery, and the surgeon would ring me once they’d finished. And at this point I was thinking he’d had a stroke. That’s what a bleed on the brain was to me. I thought he’d had a stroke, I thought you can recover from a stroke. It was unusual that someone so healthy had had a stroke but these things happen. And I was making plans for how I could care for him once he came home. Because like I said, I didn’t drive or anything, and if he’d had a stroke I was worried he wouldn’t be able to drive, so I applied for my CBT to get like a moped or something. Just so I could get into a local village, get supplies and post and stuff. The surgeon rang me about 4 in the morning, and told me that she had had to remove a large piece of his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. She said his brain was massively swollen, she’d never seen anything like it. She didn’t think he’d ever wake up again; if he did he would be severely disabled. And she believed it was a direct result of the Astrazeneca vaccine. That was the first time anyone told me it was the Astrazeneca vaccine that had done it. I rang my landlords who drove me to the hospital to his family, my mum, and they all came from- they live in Surrey and London, so it took them a while to get up to Newcastle. And we were allowed to stay with him. And on Wednesday, the 19th of May, he was completely non responsive-he didn’t wake up once, the entire time we were there. To be honest I think he was brain dead from the moment they took him out of surgery. They had to give him a chance I guess and he was declared dead on the Wednesday. He donated his liver and his kidneys to 3 people.
Following this, I applied for the vaccine damage payment scheme, which is a one off payment of £120,000, which is supposedly given to help people who have suffered a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine. It took over a year despite having a death certificate, which confirmed the vaccine was the only cause of Zi’s death. It took over a year for them to make a payment. And when I first applied, there were 4 people in this department. You had to download a form to fill it in, and post it off-you couldn’t do it online. The whole thing was just a massive joke.
I since then have started working with-well I’m a founding member of a group called VIB UK; Vaccine Injured and Bereaved UK. And we’re working on two levels. One is to reform the VDPS and the other is to litigate against the government, which we have just started to do now, to litigate against the government and Astrazeneca for the lack of safety. With regards to the Astrazeneca vaccine specifically, we’re hoping to open it up to other vaccines in the future, but at the moment, we are focusing on the Astrazeneca causing vaccine injuries; both from cytopenia- which is what killed Zi. We have reason to believe they knew about this, when they launched the vaccine, and they decided to keep all the information about it to themselves. Nothing was added to the safety literature about the vaccines until June 2021. And also, astonishingly in Zi’s inquest we discovered that no information was given to paramedics about vaccine side effects until July 2022. Up until that point they were given no. . .nothing to watch out for, no side effects, red flags, anything, they were given no information. All the information they had about vaccine side effects and adverse reactions was what they saw on TV, which was everyone saying the vaccines are completely safe and completely effective and there were no bad side effects.
So. . .let’s see, what else. . .We’ve also discovered, I’m sure you know the MRHA is 86% funded by the drug companies, which seems like a very good way to open it up for corruption. . .Sorry I’m just getting myself a bit emotional again. . .We’ve been completely closed off and shut down by Ofcom: the BBC, ITV, Sky-they refuse to talk to us, they refuse to acknowledge our existence, that we’re, basically, the government’s dirty little secret, and it all comes down to money. It all comes down to money. These vaccine companies have made vast fortunes. And we are literally collateral damage to them. Even the language which they use now; the government and people from Astrazeneca, we’ve heard them: “we’re very sad to hear people feel they may have experienced adverse reactions to the vaccines.” No, there’s no ‘feeling’ we’ve experienced an adverse reaction-this is a confirmed death caused by your vaccine! I really dislike the avoidance language they use.
At this point, we are now litigating against the government and Astrazeneca. We are finally, literally in the last couple of days, seem to have made some sort of headway in getting the VDPS reformed. Now, the reason we want the VDPS reformed-as I said it’s a payout of £120,000- it’s all or nothing. That is based on causation; you have to prove that in the balance of probability, the vaccine was the cause of the injury, or death. If you are 59% injured by the vaccine- I really don’t know how they calculate this number, you’re not entitled to a single penny. And that is absolutely horrendous. Anyone who takes the vaccine in good faith, is being told that it is safe, and they are protecting others in doing so- anyone who suffers any sort of serious injury from that, deserves fair help and fair compensation and fair support. Yesterday was the first time, in which we’ve had that acknowledged. Maria Caulfield actually answered questions on this, and she wasn’t just citing from the usual documentation, which always includes the word robust; robust safety checks, robust. . . But yesterday she actually acknowledged the fact that yes there are people suffering long term ill effects from these vaccines, who do actually need help. And they are actually looking into setting up clinics to help these people. Because obviously you’ve heard of Long Covid clinics, they’re going to set up something for long term vaccine injury, which has finally been recognized and finally been acknowledged. It still doesn’t really help massively-I’m not sure they’re really going to be much help to be honest, but it’s a start-we’re actually finally starting to be recognized, rather than completely ignored and swept under the rug.
It’s been devastating, and we find ourselves constantly trolled, attacked and abused. I’ve been banned from Twitter multiple times, for talking about what happened to Zi. I’ve been called all sorts of names, just for addressing the fact that, you can’t. . .they shouldn’t ignore the people who’ve attempted to do what we were told was the right thing. As you’re very much aware, it was a load of nonsense anyway; these vaccines did nothing to stop the spread or prevent infection, and in fact, in certain age groups, the vaccines are more dangerous than the disease. They didn’t tell us any of that-we were completely lied to.
Let’s see, I did a Freedom of Information request last year to ask about the indemnity granted to the vaccine manufacturers, and the reply I got back- so that was very interesting. Because it basically cited that they couldn’t give me the details of this indemnity because it was not in the financial interests of the government or the pharmaceutical companies. Now I’m pretty sure that public health should be of more interest to the government than it’s bloody financial interests in a drug. And that annoyed a lot of people, understandably. But yeah, as I’ve basically gone down a rabbit hole since this all happened. I’ve really come to understand that, it’s all a load of shit. We’re being lied to constantly. (audience claps) We’re being manipulated-we know we’re being nudged, pushed, coerced, bullied, and I’ve just had enough of it quite frankly.
Chair: Well we need your strength and we need your courage, so we’re all with you Vikki.
Vikki: Thank you
Chair: It’s really important to hear from you today. Have you said everything you need to say?
Vikki: Yeah, there’s so many things going on. Yesterday it really kicked off when it was made known about the litigation against the government. It’s been going on for several months but just yesterday was the first day it went public so I ended up being on the phone all day talking about that. . . Actually even the BBC got in touch with me, which was quite unusual. But I’m a little bit frightened of them I’m afraid.
Chair: It’s actually partly due to your work that the tide is turning. Particularly over the last several months. (Audience claps.)
Audience member: Can I just say if this thing does go on the BBC, make sure that she has her own recording of what takes place.
Piers Corbyn: Do it live on the BBC, don’t let them record anything.
Vikki: They don’t like having me live on the BBC. I’ve done it a couple of times and they’ve regretted it both times.
Piers Corbyn: Say you’ll only appear if it’s live.
Dr Clare Craig
Chair: Clare is a qualified pathologist, working in the NHS and reaching consultant level in 2009. She specialized in cancer diagnostics including diagnostic testing for cancer within mass screening programmes. She was the day to day pathology lead for the cancer arm of the 100,000 Genomes Project. She was clinical lead for the data team and led on research and development projects at Genomics England and wrote national guidance and helped build bespoke software, working closely with NHSE. Dr Craig has been a tireless voice, on and offline, over the past several years in advocating for evidence based policy around Covid issues, and the importance of upholding basic medical ethical principles including informed consent and bodily autonomy. She is Co-chair of the Health Advisory and Recovery Team who are a voluntary body of professionals educating the public on covid issues.
Dr Clare Craig: The medical case for and against technocracy – I have broadened the title out because it is important to understand what is motivating people to continue down this path and even without the WEF we would be facing similar issues in medicine.
The encroachment of technocracy on medicine is a double-edged sword, wielding both the power to transform and the threat to dehumanise. While AI holds the potential to revolutionise diagnostics, treatment, and patient care, we must fight to keep the heart and soul of medicine alive – empathy, compassion, and ethical decision-making. We must demand that we maintain our humanity in the face of technological change.
Medicine is an art as well as a science. It cannot be practised without human interaction. Patients need encouragement from a doctor, who listens carefully, to help them articulate what is wrong. The body will always be part of a physical realm and the touch required as part of examining a patient is something that cannot be readily replaced by technology. Healing rarely goes well without compassion and treatments get nowhere without trust. Medicine encompasses much of what it means to be human and yet the technocrats want a piece of it.
The last three years has forced us to evaluate the merits and drawbacks of centralised control in healthcare. It has exposed the ways our medical systems fail. This is not all bad. Having a light shone upon the issues in a dramatic way is better than the boiling frog method of not realising change has happened until it is too late.
What did we learn from the response to covid?
Firstly, one of the most significant problems we saw with covid was a removal of the patient’s doctor from diagnostic decision making. With centralised testing, when there’s no input from professionals who understand the patient’s unique situation, overdiagnosis becomes a rampant issue. Overdiagnosis can only lead to harm.
Secondly, we also saw rigid treatment protocols. Doctors were told only medicines that had been proved effective through rigorous clinical trials could be used. Not only is that process too slow but it leaves no room for innovation and learning. It also means that drugs where there is a profit to be made, such that trials can be funded, will always be prioritised over well established, cheap generic drugs with a known safety record.
Thirdly, centralised control results in bad feedback and slow responses to errors. We saw that with covid vaccine harms. We also saw it with the catastrophic harm caused by over-ventilation from following protocols. If we had allowed different approaches from the start, we could have quickly learnt what worked and what didn’t work. Instead, the WHO and those in authority at a national level pushed a protocol which killed people.
Centralised medicine does not work well.
More than all of this, what has happened in the last few years has destroyed trust. Vulnerable patients deserve a trusting relationship with their doctor, but that trust must be earned. It might not be all bad. Perhaps this breach of faith will inspire individuals to take greater responsibility for their health decisions and approach medical solutions with a healthy dose of scepticism. Overall, reducing trust in politicians, journalists and doctors could be a healthy result.
There are other problems with healthcare that were apparent before covid and in the analogue age.
Our general practitioners, whose role is to navigate the system for their patients, are overwhelmed. This results in increased referrals and decreased patient satisfaction.
Our population is overly medicated, with a pill for every ill and even more pills to counter the side effects. Drugs are started and never stopped.
This approach is not only unhealthy but also burdens our healthcare system with drug and staff costs. As our society aged and became wealthier, we have invested more in healthcare, but we must question if there are better ways to allocate our finite resources.
The current framework for how we do experiments on humans is flawed. We allow trials to be carried out entirely under the control of those with a vested interest. Regulatory bodies have struggled to ensure these trials are open, transparent and not biased or even, on occasion, fraudulent. Inevitably trials that have any bias will lead to over prescribing which will have detrimental outcomes for patients and associated costs for all of us.
What Improvements could come from a more digitised medical system with Artificial Intelligence?
Firstly, AI has the capacity to transform medicine. AI is creative and sees patterns that humans have missed or just can’t see. For example, it can tell whether a photo of the back of the eye came from a man or a woman. This could have a huge impact on cancer diagnostics, for example. In pathology we examine the tissue removed from a cancer under the microscope. Doing so gives us clues as to how bad the prognosis is and sometimes as to which treatment might work. Using AI we can really scale up what we can deduce from the tissue which will help to predict outcomes and guide patients towards the most effective treatments. These advancements could save lives, save on misplaced psychological distress and save precious resources, creating a more efficient healthcare system.
Secondly, AI when linked to big data will be able to point out hidden drug interactions, unveiling benefits or risks that were previously unknown. For example, a drug might increase the risk of another condition or might even reduce the risk and could be used to treat something for which it is not currently used. Also, we could have a much better understanding of how one type of drug compares to a competitor. This knowledge will empower doctors to make better informed decisions about medications and their potential side effects.
Thirdly, AI offers the potential to help reduce waste in medicine. The way we currently practise medicine includes the overuse of tests and treatments. Doctors are often reluctant to reduce or stop medications and AI could help us get better at knowing when to do that. Through AI and data analysis, doctors can make informed decisions and allocate resources more effectively.
Having said all that, we cannot ignore the darker side of AI in medicine.
What are the direct risks from AI?
Firstly, the way it is incentivised. When I worked in AI cancer diagnostics I could see the potential but there was an underlying problem. The core driver was wrong. We need to create a system where the driver behind what and how AI is taught is to improve patient outcomes. Instead, everywhere, the focus is on making money. Resources are not invested into areas where we could learn new ways of improving diagnosis such that patients have fewer invasive tests and only the right toxic therapies. Instead, we have one driven by financial incentives. The quickest financial win is to be able to replace staff. Most startups are focused on that but that comes with no benefit to patients – perhaps the opposite.
Secondly, the use of big data. Any improvements from AI are entirely dependent on centralised health data. There are advantages to a doctor being able to access a patient’s record no matter which part of the country or specialty they are in. However, centralised data brings with it the challenges of who and how people are given access and who makes the rules of the gatekeepers. With covid we have seen the politicisation of medicine which cause biased gatekeeping of these resources.
Moreover, the threat of data privacy and security breaches looms large. As AI relies on massive amounts of sensitive patient data, the misuse or loss of this information could have devastating consequences for patients.
Thirdly, there is a strange belief that artificial intelligence must always be right. It will inevitably have biases of its own based on what and how it was taught. If doctors are not sceptical enough, AI might be treated as omniscient and that could result in catastrophic mistakes. It is essential that the hard graft of checking decisions, including with costly clinical trials, continues.
Beyond the direct risks there are also the risks that we lose human interactions and start outsourcing our ethics.
As AI encroaches on medicine, we must fiercely defend the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. The essence of healing lies in empathy, compassion, and communication, which no machine can ever replicate. Even with the most advanced AI, doctors must continue to help patients articulate their concerns. Only doctors can conduct physical examinations, preserving the time-honoured tradition of the “laying on of hands.” The last three years have shown us that, even with a real doctor, there are real limitations to zoom consultations. There are advantages too in some circumstances. It can save patients a lot of wasted time in a waiting room for example. But it is not a good way to care for people. It is not a good way to really understand a patient’s problem and it is a terrible way to examine a patient.
Finally, AI cannot, and should not, be entrusted with ethical decision making in medicine. Complex moral decisions, such as allocating resources for expensive treatments, prioritising organ donations, or fertility treatments, must remain in the hands of human beings who own their moral code and accept responsibility for their choices.
In conclusion, the future of medicine hangs in the balance between the promise of AI and the preservation of human interaction. It is our duty to ensure that AI serves the interests of humanity, rather than catering to the whims of profit-driven corporations. By directing AI towards patient-centred outcomes, we can ensure that the benefits of AI outweigh the drawbacks, creating a healthcare system that is both innovative and compassionate. By embracing the transformative potential of AI while fiercely defending empathy, compassion, and ethical decision-making, we can shape a future where healthcare is not only technologically advanced but also remains anchored in the core values that define our humanity. In this fight, we must not yield to the seductive allure of automation but rather stand strong in our conviction that the human touch and human interaction is, and will always be, an irreplaceable part of medicine.