Could machines replace doctors?


  • Mary Corcoran
  • International Medical News
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The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine has garnered much attention in recent years, with the technology showing the potential to be more accurate than physicians at making diagnoses in certain specialties. 

Whether or not such machines could actually ever replace doctors is a subject that is debated in a new head-to-head debate published in the BMJ

In the article, Dr Jörg Goldhahn from the Institute for Translational Medicine at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, highlights the advances in machine learning and suggests that the idea that physicians could approximate the knowledge of machines by keeping up to date with current medical research while maintaining close contact with their patients “is an illusion". He also argues that for some patients, they may also find their needs are better met by machines. 

However, Vanessa Rampton from the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy in Montréal, Canada and Professor Giatgen Spinas from University Hospital in Zürich, Switzerland, say machines could never replicate the inter-relational quality of the therapeutic nature of the doctor-patient relationship. They suggest “a likely future scenario will be AI systems augmenting knowledge production and processing, and doctors helping patients find an equilibrium that acknowledges the limitations of the human condition, something that is inaccessible to AI".