How ethical can these 'equitable' algorithms be?

How ethical can these 'equitable' algorithms be?

How ethical can these 'equitable' algorithms be?

Computer scientists and the medical establishment have found a new use for artificial intelligence that a medical ethicist says portends promise and peril.

Since March 9th, doctors have been using artificial intelligence (AI) to determine which patients get the transplants they need. The U.S. organ transplant system has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the AI-driven algorithm framework, known as continuous distribution, which aims to make organ transplants "more equitable."

AI is used to distribute available organs by synthesizing a host of different factors, such as medical urgency, proximity of donor hospital to transplant hospital, and waiting time.

Prentice, Dr. David (Charlotte Lozier Institute) Prentice

Dr. David Prentice of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, "America's #1 source for science, data, and medical research on the value of human life," says the idea is good in principle, as long as the algorithm is given unbiased rules by which to operate.

Bias, however, seems to have been built into the algorithm. Experts interviewed by Healthcare IT News earlier this year boasted the system's "ability to adjust the number of points awarded per attribute," which they say "offers tremendous flexibility to policymakers to control the level of priority to be given to each patient group."

That, Dr. Prentice warns, paves the road to rationed care or other bias.

"There's a great possibility for abuse, especially when our government – one that has a bias against Christians and against conservatives – is programming an algorithm to just sort of put the finger on the scale," he submits.

In other words, the patients the programmers, the healthcare system, and/or the government wants to get the organs do, and the unfavored ones do not.

"Something as vital to health as organ transplant and who determines who gets what organ transplant is not a decision made by Solomon; it's made by somebody who programed the computer," Dr. Prentice recaps.