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Somewhere between dystopia and utopia
  1. Jesse Wall
  1. Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jesse Wall, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand; jesse.wall{at}

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The Journal of Medical Ethics can sometimes read part Men Like Gods and part A Brave New World. At times, we learn how all controversies can resolved with reference to four (or five) principles. At other times, we learn how “every discovery in pure science is potentially subversive”.1 This issue is no exception. Here, we can read about the utopia of gene editing, manufactured organs, and machine learnt algorithmic decision-making. We can also read about the dystopia of inherited disorders from edited germlines, the testing of xenotransplants on braindead patients, and misdiagnosis by artificial intelligence. What we see in the three papers that I will foreground here is the application of medical ethics to avoid the dystopia while preserving the promises of medical science. But as I seek to explain here, our ability to address the controversies that we anticipate in medical science depend on our ability to refine our understanding of what medical ethics requires of us now.

From the diagnosis of eye diseases from fungus images to predicting the risk of imminent risk of suicide attempts, machine learnt medical decision making has, in some high profile instances, outperformed clinicians in medical diagnosis and treatment recommendations. While clinician and machine learnt diagnoses will both involve degrees of uncertainty and fallibility, Thomas Grote2 asks us to consider is how much weight a clinician ought to give an algorithmic diagnosis which she disagreements with. Since a clinician is held to account for …

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