The Human Touch: Why AI Can't Predict End-of-Life Decisions

April 26, 2024
3 min
Justin Hallen, VP Partnerships

In the fast-paced world of technological advancement, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to astound us with its capabilities. From predicting consumer behavior to driving cars autonomously, AI has permeated almost every aspect of our lives. However, there are realms where its reach falls short. One such realm is the delicate matter of end-of-life decisions.

A recent study discussed in Forbes, sheds light on this very issue, highlighting the limitations of AI in predicting end-of-life decisions. The study underscores the intricate nature of human choice, influenced by factors ranging from personal values to cultural beliefs. While AI algorithms excel at processing data and identifying patterns, they struggle when confronted with the nuances of mortality. This is the main fear for patients and providers, confronting mortality until they are faced with it, by then, too late.

Advance care planning (ACP) is a critical aspect of end-of-life care, allowing individuals to express their preferences regarding medical treatment and interventions should they become incapacitated. However, the effectiveness of ACP hinges not only on documentation but also on the quality and accuracy of the decisions made. Here lies the crux of the matter: can AI truly facilitate accurate and quality ACP?

At its core, ACP is a deeply personal process that transcends mere data points. It involves introspection, reflection, and often difficult conversations with loved ones and healthcare providers. While AI algorithms can analyze historical data and provide statistical probabilities, they lack the capacity to grasp the intricacies of human experience and emotion. Try to throw in spirituality and cultural aspects, and AI has no chance of predicting a personalized ACP.

Accurate and quality ACP necessitates a human touch, one that acknowledges the complexity of individual values and preferences. It requires empathetic communication, active listening, and a deep understanding of cultural and familial dynamics. While AI can certainly augment the ACP process by organizing information and offering insights, it should complement rather than replace the human element. That is why we created Thanacare, a place to have human conversations with your provider and healthcare agent as you navigate the ACP process throughout your life.

The study underscores the importance of ongoing communication and reassessment in ACP. Human beings are dynamic creatures, and their preferences may evolve overtime in response to changing circumstances and experiences. A one-time prediction by an AI algorithm cannot capture this fluidity. Thus, healthcare providers must engage patients in continuous dialogue, encouraging them to revisit and revise their advance directives as needed. The bare minimum is once a year during your annual wellness visit. Your health changes so it is important to provide access to share ACP, via Thanacare or other platform, and review after every major health event.

Additionally, the study serves as a reminder of the ethical considerations inherent in ACP. While AI may provide predictions based on historical data, it cannot navigate the ethical dilemmas inherent in end-of-life decision-making. ACP requires human judgment informed by ethical principles and compassion.

While AI continues to revolutionize healthcare in many ways, its role in end-of-life decision-making remains limited. Accurate and quality ACP demands a human-centered approach that acknowledges the complexity of individual values, preferences, and ethical considerations. That is why Thanacare continues to partner with social workers, spiritual leaders, death doulas, and other end of life professionals; passionate human touch will always be preferential for someone nearing death. While AI may assist in medical predictions, your care team needs a space to listen to your individual preferences empathetically.

 If you are interested in starting a conversation about what matters most when it comes to your care wishes, schedule with Thanacare today.