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Flawed Fiat: Challenging Adrian Gore

Part #1: An open letter to Discovery founder and CEO Adrian Gore

Dear Adrian

You’ve mandated thousands of people get a specific medical treatment. That demands a bulletproof justification. I’d like to challenge you on that. I argue that your “six-point rationale” is dangerously flawed.

Many will follow your ruling by reason of your formal role as leader of Discovery. Many will follow you because of the high esteem they justifiably hold you in.

In a series of pieces, I will press you on many of your premises. My goal is healthy debate. This is important for the precedent it can set and the impact your vaccine mandate will have on lives.

Your first premise: “People are dying. We need to stop it.”

We or me?

Why “we”? Why a for-profit business? Why a mandate? And why your employees?  

We have long accepted that medical treatment is for the individual to manage themselves. For children, a parent or guardian has a duty, too. Doctors have an indispensable advisory role. This seems uncontroversial. Nobody I know challenged it before Covid mania struck.

The principle here is “informed consent”. Here’s a strong discussion and explanation of this from the SA Orthopaedic Journal. I’ll leave it there, as I trust you agree it is self-evident that this is the right way to manage medical treatment – even if we disagree on its application.

Why would a corporation suddenly need to force a medical intervention on their employees?

The relationship is not familial. It is not one of authority. The company and the employee are contractually bound. One provides labour, the other money. The connection is limited to the contents of the contract. It is governed by contract law and labour law. And overarched by the Constitution. I reckon we can look to the likes of international treaty for authority as well. Consider the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966).

Neither party is superior to the other. Discovery may not demand that an accountant perform sales duties. It has no right to force a call centre agent to work 43 hours a week instead of an agreed 40. Just the same, the accountant or agent has no standing to knock on your door, payslip in hand, and demand one rand more than his agreed remuneration.

Which people?

Your first word is problematic. Strictly you’re entirely correct. People are dying. But there is an inference here, I submit, that vast numbers of people are dying across the board. You wouldn’t have written that sentence if you were addressing very few deaths in a small segment of society.

Substantial numbers of people are dying. Each one is a matter if great emotion for the relevant nearest and dearest. That is of some relevance when making policy. But a thoroughly actuarial approach has to supersede that.

Further, we have a limited capacity to address these deaths. And every effort we make to do this has a direct cost, an indirect cost and an opportunity cost.

For the purpose of appropriately crafting the tone, I argue that talking broadly about “people” should be avoided in the context of Covid. This virus is of vanishingly little danger to children. It is of some danger to groups like healthy 30 year-olds. With an average age of death from Covid above 82, it is a clear and present danger to that group. Presumably none of your staff fall into the 82-plus category.

The upshot is that Covid’s impact on quality-adjusted years of life lost is massively smaller than it might be if it killed people evenly across age groups. And individual responses to the virus ought to be informed by these meaningfully different risks.

Also, why only Discovery’s South Africa-based people?

I’m making a highly nuanced point on “people”. Pedantic, even. But that is what we ought to do for a matter of this gravity. Especially in a milieu where tone and narrative have such potent force.

Why Covid?

You announce, “Every life lost is a life too many, and every effort to curb further loss must be taken.” That sounds noble. However, the fundamental claim is unsustainable. It is not the case that all and any of us must do everything we can to prevent the loss of every life. Rather, some people have some duties to work to prevent the loss of some lives, within a cost-benefit scenario.

A reductio ad absurdum is instructive here. Using your framing, government could – in fact, must – mandate emergency medical staff be stationed green-side at every bowls game. I must boost my neighbour’s expected life span by forcing him to jog with me.

Each of us makes decisions about how to risk our lives every time we get into a car, play tennis or go skydiving as a birthday thrill. I understand part of the reasoning for vaccine mandates is that vaccination against Covid has an impact on the risk calculation for other people. Later I will address this.

You provide no framework for where it might sensibly end. What precise and complete criteria justify the corporate mandating of a medical treatment? What I draw from your first premise is, “it is very bad and we should step in”. We need brighter lines than that. Better defined and with more robust limits.

Covid is a nasty virus. We now know its toll. No need to discuss that here. But why Covid specifically? In England Covid is now 24th on the list of leading causes of death. It falls outside the leading causes of death in the table below compiled from official sources. For fullness, England has far higher rates of vaccination than we do and a superior health system. The comparison is imperfect.

If you want to wield every effort to save as many lives as possible, why the decision to target Covid in preference to every other potential cause of death? Is there more bang for buck elsewhere?

The burden of proving that is not on me or any Discovery employee who doesn’t want the vaccine – for whatever reason. It is on you. I challenge you to show us. You have done your actuarial calculation on Covid. We need it for all the other major causes of illness and death.    


Force versus trust

Why the strict mandate? Trust is the golden rule in public health. There is good exploration of that here – Trust in Public Health Is Essential Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic – by the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

Similarly, Harvard Medical School Professor Martin Kulldorff argues in his Twelve Forgotten Principles of Public Health that this area should be bedded in trust, not demands. As the expert in infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety puts it, “Public health is about trust. To gain the trust of the public, public health officials and the media must be honest and trust the public. Shaming and fear should never be used in a pandemic.” I’m sure Kulldorff would add corporates to public health officials and the media where they make health policies. I’d extend “shaming and fear” to include threats of losing your job.

Why won’t you trust our staff? Those who have had Covid already have as much if not more protection against the virus as those who have been vaccinated. And vaccinated or not, anyone infected can transmit the virus. I’ll return to the details of this paragraph in later editions. I find it a particularly vexing part of the science.

I submit that you have a duty to fully consider less dictatorial methods. It is unclear to me if you have done this. At a minimum, I suggest you owe it to your staff to explain why you haven’t taken inspiration from the Great Barrington Declaration, which advocates targeted measures using education and recommendations, rather than force.

Heavy burden

This is unambiguously your burden. “He who alleges must prove”. The status quo is not to mandate vaccines. You want to alter that. And in this case, you are impacting (I’d say infringing) a number of rights in the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.

Privacy: we have a right not to disclose our medical history. Freedom of movement: presumably staff will be banned from your premises (admittedly private property) without a vaccine card. The right to earn a living. Will you fire anyone who doesn’t take the vaccine? I suspect you’ll be infringing religious freedom in some instances. Based on the iconic S v Makwanyane Constitutional Court decision of 1995 (the “death penalty case”), I’d not be surprised if a court found the right to dignity is infringed by demanding a medical treatment on pain of losing your job.

I expect a lawyer may find additional Constitutional and other legal challenges.

These rights may be legitimately limited. But it is a weighty burden for each one. And your mandate limits many of these entrenched rights. You do deal with this in premise 6. So I’ll leave it here for now.

Next: Faulty Fiat #2

In my next instalment I’ll tackle the second part of your rationale: “Our data is unequivocal”. Data is very rarely unequivocal. On Covid, vaccines and vaccine mandates, I will put to you that it is not just equivocal but that it stacks up against your decision.

I’ll note here the fact that your letter does not provide sources for your data. This tarnishes your argument’s credibility. What sort of authority produced which number? How reliable are they? Was it a drug manufacturer’s claim or a finding in a peer-reviewed study in a respected journal by scientists with good track records and demonstrable impartiality? How did they obtain these figures? What was the sample? You haven’t granted us the ability to evaluate these things.

I challenge you to provide us with your sources.

Recommended reading

I’ll close #1 with a suggestion. Here is a robust work opposing vaccine mandates for many reasons. Author Abir Ballan is a public health expert with a background in psychology, as well as a member of the executive committee of PANDA.

If you are mandating thousands of people get a specific medical treatment, your argument should be bulletproof. On my analysis, yours has meaningful faults that deserve fuller consideration before the rule takes effect on many lives.

Adrian, I would hugely appreciate your engagement on this. Despite my strong conviction one way, I endeavour to be open-minded and ready to change my mind if persuaded. Despite your decision, and I imagine an equally potent yet polar conviction to mine, I do hope you’ll do the same.  


Ian Macleod

Ian Macleod

Ian Macleod

Ian Macleod studied business science at the University of Cape Town, and journalism at Rhodes University. He completed his MBA at the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in 2017. Ian's career has spanned from feature writing for magazines to consulting at a big four professional services firm. Currently he divides his time between two consulting roles, one in a quasi-academic capacity and the other to investment firms in the novel field of narrative economics.

24 Responses

    1. Sorry to hear.
      I maybe next (because the world is going crazy)
      Read National Health Act sections 6, 7, 8.
      SA Constitution.
      Nuremberg Code.

      Don’t resign under pressure.

      This is not right.

  1. Absolutely brilliant Ian Macleod!
    The argument for vaccine mandates is nonsensical and not based on the real data. If someone who is vaccinated can get and spread Covid with the same viral load as a non vaccinated person what is the point. If you are vaccinated why are you worried about getting Covid? You can and will give it to each other at the workplace even if you are all vaccinated. Israel has proven that. Thank goodness South Africa has a strong constitution because there will be legal challenges.

  2. No chance that he’ll reply

    1. I’m confident Discovery marketing has or will pick up on it. And I’ll keep pressing relentlessly.
      If he doesn’t respond, so be it.

  3. Very eloquent debate…at last someone actually challenges the madness affecting international society and using facts….!!
    People are experiencing ‘scatoma’ i.e. a fear induced ‘lock on’ while simultaneously ‘locking out’ any argument which does not meet their narrative. That fear created by a fear feedback loop, of lock down, curfews, liquor bans…on and off at the whims of officials, seemingly without any scientific basis, of being unable to travel without an internationally accepted ‘proof of vaccination’ orvattend church, sports or social interaction events, and now even the denial of employment , has become all powerful in thinking, with resultant loss of freedom and control by powers that be….and sadly, acceptance by a cowed population..

  4. Clear concise and correct …
    Discovery obviously was warned early with the newly mandated American law on vaccines and is showing how woke they are.
    My wife and I both had Covid – nasty 30 days odd
    She first (Deta V) – followed our doctors instructions/prescription – he was brilliant.
    Me bit later (same Delta V I guess) self-medicated with on and off label medicines.
    Both of us are 100%
    do we get “I survived Covid” cards to carry ?
    …asking for a friend .. ?

  5. Academic debates whilst people infect each other, and some are dying. The US politicians highlighted the phenomenons of ‘alternative facts’ and fake news. Social media blew it out of all proportions.
    The world is becoming more divided every day. Adrian won’t react, and he should not. He’s an actuary and a wealthy businessman. Their calculations and forecasts should make for scary reading.
    I have yet to find an article about COVID that’s not either confrontational to some extend. This is no exception. It’s just so sad.

      1. Indeed.
        The lack of attention given to causes of suffering and death outside of Covid has been frightening. Mania.
        Burden of proof is on the person instituting the rule. Why act on Covid rather than some other (or “all other”) risks?
        And at what cost?

    1. Should we not challenge wealthy people and actuaries? What do we do when groups of wealthy actuaries disagreed? As is the case here.

      You have not addressed any of the data I presented or arguments I made?

      I agree it is not helpful that we shout at each other over Covid and vaccines. I think being confrontational to a modest extent is appropriate.

      1. Hi Ian
        I think your article is brilliant. To pick up on a point you made about dictatorial, I would suggest further that Adrian’s leadership of Discovery is poor. Client service is well below par and morale of staff appears low. There are thousands of clients complaining about poor service and the fact that premiums far outweigh the benefits received. I suggest he gets his ship in order before he starts dictating that all staff be vaccinated. I had covid fairly badly and recovered to a reasonable extent. I chose to get fully vaccinated. Whether or not to get vaccinated should be each individual’s choice.

    2. Please go and do some research – for the sake of those (few) of us who can see and understand what nonsense all of this is, which is what make me confrontational.
      Even if vaccinated, you can catch and spread covid. They say if you have been vaccinated you will get it less severely , which means that the only one supposedly getting any advantage from being vaccinated would be the vaccinated one.
      And how on earth do they know that if you are vaccinated you will catch covid less severely? A disease that kills 3 in 1000 mostly elderly people, but somehow they know if you had caught it you would have died without being vaccinated? Yeah, right. MSM, ‘scientists’, governments saying something which the vast majority of people swallow hook line and sinker, and spread it around as truth. You can’t prove a negative.
      Then there is the argument that the unvaccinated are causing the virus to mutate. This is completely incorrect, on the contrary it is the vaccinated (or those who have natural immunity from having had covid) who are forcing the mutations.
      And this is not a vaccine – vaccines teach your body to recognise viruses – this is the injection of mRNA which instructs your cells to produce spike proteins. If it does not switch off, it will cause ADE (antibody dependent enhancement) which will make your antibodies turn on everything they see as being threatening, even your own cells.
      I heard someone from Discovery (Dr Noach?) spreading lies the other day – he said it has been proven that the vaccination is safe for children. Really? Where are these studies? Who has been performing studies on children, and for how long were they carried out? The vaccine has only been around for a few months, yet it is PROVEN to be safe? For children? This is an obvious lie, and it is beyond disgraceful.
      If you have not had the vaccination, and it does prove to be safe, you can still have it.
      If you have had it and it proves to be unsafe, well, you can’t untake it.

  6. If Mr. Gore bothered to do some real research – instead of just buying into the coerced narrative – then he would take a more responsible and informed stance. A stance that did not violate people’s rights, and the SA constitution. He would have taken cognizants of the role players (their relationship with each other), their patents, and motives for pushing an experimental drug – with serious side effects (including deaths) and would have studied the massive under-reporting of such (and questioned why). Ask where the data is coming from, and whether it’s untainted? There is a lot of info out there to suggest that vaccinated people are creating mutations and variants, and are in fact the super spreaders. So who do I trust? The people that stand to benefit, and have to manipulate figures, spread fear, and blackmail medical staff (and even countries), or do I believe those doctors, researchers, lawyers etc. that are prepared to stand for the truth – even at risk of losing their reputation and livelihood?
    Some may say that I’m conspiratorial, conspiracy is only that, until proven true. Some examples: the Wuhan lab leak, manipulated deaths attributed to Covid, mandated vaccines for all, unvaccinated to be denied essentials, intern camps for unvaccinated (re-programming) – yet all have come true.
    Mr. Gore since Discovery has both a medical aid division, as well as a life cover division, are you going to pay out when someone dies from the vaccine, or are you going to say that a clause in the life cover states that members cannot partake in experimental drug tests?
    Given your current mis-informed stance I would definitely distance myself from your company.

  7. Thank you for a well reasoned, public response to this authoritarian madness.

    Each time I read headlines stating people have to be vaccinated, or unvaccinated people will be excluded, my body and mind is crying out “Why?”.

    As you appropriately challenged, it is rather high handed to suggest that it is Discovery’s responsibility to stop anyone from dying. The family members, or friends, of the Discovery medical aid members who in the past have been denied cover for treatments recommended by their medical practitioners (for any type of illness) and have subsequently died, would have good reason to now question why Discovery didn’t need to stop them from dying as well.

  8. I thoroughly appreciate the considered responses. Thank, you.
    The opposition relies on ad hominem, straw man and guilt by association. Plus unsubstantiated claims – “These are facts!”
    The opposing comment on this Morning Shot comments section is unfortunate. Essentially, “don’t challenge a rich actuary”.
    What if I have a rich actuary to trot out? Stalemate?
    Ironically, I’ve also been hit with “You sound privileged”. First, so what? Second, you’ll not be surprised to hear I’m less privileged (certainly less wealthy) than Gore! But that’s neither here note there.
    Rather, challenge the data and arguments. Keep cool. Force yourself to concede positions where appropriate. Be firm and collegial. Argue, don’t fight.
    Part #2 drops on Monday.

  9. [Forwarded from Heleen Van Der Merwe]
    So… Here’s my take on companies “forcing” you to vaccinate… I don’t work for one, but if I did…

    1. If you want to FIRE me for not giving up my constitutional rights, then follow the FULL disciplinary procedure, charge me, be very clear about the charge, and bring WITNESSES to VERIFY my transgression.

    2. During the hearing, provide PROOF that I AM infected, that I AM transmitting the disease, that I AM infecting others, and that I AM causing them to die.

    3. During the hearing, provide PROOF that other staff (vaccinated or not) are NOT infected, are NOT infecting others, and are NOT causing them to die (only me, personally).

    4. Also provide PROOF that I have NOT social distanced and worn my (virtue signaling) mask, thereby INTENTIONALLY placing others at risk.

    5. Also provide PROOF that ANY of the staff members I am in contact with are taking ALL steps to AVOID serious illness or hospitalization (reducing their vulnerabilities), by eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting enough sunlight, boosting their Vitamin D (and other Vitamin) levels, to REDUCE their risk.

    6. Provide PROOF that the vaccinated staff members are not exposing ME to risk, by carrying or transmitting the disease to ME.

    7. Provide PROOF that the decision is based on SCIENTIFIC consideration of BOTH arguments (for, and against) the administration of the vaccine and EXACTLY HOW those divided scientific opinions have been weighed.

    8. Provide PROOF of the steps you have taken, as the employer, to ENSURE my safety at the workplace, including safety FROM side-effects of the vaccine, since YOU are MANDATING it.

    9. Provide PROOF that Covid-19 is the ONLY disease that employees CAN contract, carry, transmit, get ill from, get hospitalized because or, and die from.

    10. Provide PROOF that I am being treated EQUALLY and FAIRLY, by declaring the EXACT steps taken, and MANDATES introduced, to protect me (and others) from ALL (other) infectious diseases.

    Once this trial is over, and if you DO dismiss me, then YOU take the risk of facing the CCMA, Arbitration and the labor court, where I can call EXPERT WITNESSES if I want, where I can cross-examine your witnesses, where I can subpoena records, where I can show my infection status, and where you can PROVE that I AM (not MAY BE) exposing others to risk.

    Finally, if you want to FORCE me into anything, then YOU should be the one FIRING me. DO NOT expect me to “fire myself,” simply because that is the EASY route for me. I am NOT an “easy target” at all.

    And I would DARE my employer – TRY to victimize me, because I stand up for MY rights!

    Feel free to distribute, forward, or copy/paste.

    Stan Bezuidenhout
    Forensic Specialist, Court Expert, Trainer, Author.

  10. This is disgusting.. my medical aid wants me to take an experimental intervention against my will and then declare you are not covered when you do that.Shame on You Gore and Disc

  11. Curious that no one mentions that the average rate of flu deaths per annum in South Africa is around 245 000 yet last year (2020) there was exactly 1 registered case of death by flu and miraculously not one flu death to date this year.

  12. Grow some balls. I don’t care if someone does not want to be vaccinated just like I don’t care if you want to jump out of a plane without a parachute. However if an when they contract COVID think about those who HAVE to treat you, it is not THEIR choice, they have to do so. Just send your Medical aid an affidavit stating you do not wish to be treated if you get COVID, that would save everyone a lot of hassle.

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