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COMPUTER’S `VOTE’ FOR LIFE OR DEATH PROVOKES UPROAR

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A British doctor provoked medical uproar Wednesday with a computer program to decide whether patients live or die.

"If we withdraw treatment earlier in those patients who are hopelessly ill, we will in fact save a lot of money," Dr. David Bihari said of his controversial research.The computer is given a patient's medical history and condition and asked to assess his chances. A "death symbol" - a black coffin with a white cross - lights up if a patient is unlikely to survive 90 days of treatment.

"At the moment, the computer is right 95 times out 100 when it tells us that a patient is hopelessly ill," Bihari, who works in the intensive care unit at Guy's hospital in London, told BBC Radio ahead of the screening of a television documentary about his research.

The project was condemned as alarmist and irresponsible by Dr. Anne Rodway of the British Medical Association's medical ethics committee. "I cannot imagine it would ever be given clinical credence," she said.

Bihari, facing budget cuts and dwindling resources, said: "The aim of this computer program was to help us identify those patients so that we could allow them to die in a more dignified and less inhumane fashion."