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Flawed Fiat: Challenging Adrian Gore (Part 5)

Part #5 – An open letter to Discovery founder and CEO Adrian Gore

(Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4)

Adrian Gore has mandated thousands of people get a specific medical treatment. That demands a bulletproof justification. I’d like to challenge him on that. I argue that his “six-point rationale” is flawed.

Many will follow his ruling by reason of his formal source of power as leader of Discovery. Many will follow it because of the high esteem they justifiably hold him in.

In a series of pieces, I will press Gore on many of his premises. My goal is healthy debate. This is important for the precedent it can set and the impact a vaccine mandate will have on lives. I heartily invite your response and a good-spirited debate. 

My Part #5 challenge to Adrian:

  • Clear? Not even close.
  • Your (real) core purpose.
  • Why you?

Dear Adrian

You say, “Taking the above into account, there is a clear moral and social obligation to pursue this.


Any moderately skilled dabeter will tell you you’ve set yourself up to fail here. Your threshold for declaring something “clear” is unsustainable.

There is unclear data. Contradictory data. Data that varies across geographies, populations, ages and time. Much of this is new. We have no long-term studies on important elements. There is correlation that needs further investigation for causation.

Moral and social obligations are rarely clear. Perhaps never. That you think this is clear calls your grasp of the matter into question.

Will you concede that any obligation to act in response to Covid-19 is not clear? I’d personally suggest “interminably vexatious”.

Your real purpose

You say your obligation to mandate vaccines rests on your “core purpose to ‘make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives’.”

I cannot believe this is your core purpose. Not really. That would make you a charity.

You’re a highly profitable business. That’s great. I love profits. In fact, I’m closely aligned with the Friedman doctrine that almost deifies them. But I argue you can’t back up your stated core purpose. 

In 2021, as per your published results,  your normalised operating profit “increased by 7% to R3 423 million [or nearly R3.5 billion] demonstrating continued operational efficiency gains”. And that is just Discovery Health. “Profits from established businesses” was R7,488 billion. Brilliant. I applaud and like that.

However, you mention “purpose” 11 times in your audited results. One of those relates to your claimed core purpose above. Other mentions relate to things like “the discipline of capital allocation”, “fair value of derivatives used for hedging” and “IFRS”. All valid and fair. But not altruistic.

Will you agree that Discovery is a fantastically profitable business whose model also does a great deal to help paying members stay heathy? And that stating your “core purpose” as you have is dishonest?

Begging the question

You say the ethical imperative is enhanced given “the scale of immune-compromised people in our country, and practically, given the degree of vaccine hesitancy being observed.”

First, the scale of the problems heightens the importance of it. But if the cure is worse than the disease, scale only ramps up the damage you will do.

Second, I’ve demonstrated that vaccine mandates can and do contribute to vaccine hesitancy. Check out my explanation of this study in letter #4.

And review my analysis of this study showing how quality information can overcome vaccine hesitancy.

The onus is on you to show that mandates work sufficiently better than provision of quality information alongside vaccine availability. The latter option has the benefit of not limiting human rights.

Can you show you’ve made an effort at this?

Why you?

Individuals are left to make the vast majority of decisions that impact their lives. We have laws of general application to limit the worse interference by one person in someone else’s life. And we take on further obligations and limitations by agreement.

I’ll address the legal issues you raise in part #6. For now, I’ll propose some of the reasons why we leave so many decisions up to the individual.

  1. We have the most information about ourselves. Far more than any expert. [You certainly don’t know the full medical history, personal risk profile and life situation of every employee. Even if you do have vast data on this.]
  2. We will carry the brunt of any negative consequences of our own actions. We have skin in the game – and, in this case, the rest of our bodies. [I deal with the potential to harm others in the context of Covid vaccines elsewhere.]
  3. There is no reliable way to determine who else might be best positioned to make our decisions for us. Why a corporate? Why a state legislature?

Individual liberties can be trumped by other considerations. I submit it is your duty to thoroughly deal with 1 to 3 above.


I’m not just breaking down your approach. I propose a solution.

Science is about ruthlessly and bravely questioning everything. Discovery is a place that I have long thought to be scientific. This provides what I reckon is an irresistible way forward:

  1. Review the science and the arguments;
  2. Conclude that a vaccine mandate is wrong;
  3. Scrap your mandate;
  4. Be bold about it. You are following science;  
  5. Reap the rewards of brave leadership.

Next: Faulty Fiat #6

Soon I’ll publish my challenge to part #6 of your rationale: the legal obligation to protect staff. I fear you have oversimplified this.

  • You ignore the high burden of justifying a limitation on a human right in the Constitution;
  • You ignore the duty to demonstrate the limitation on human rights are justified as the least intrusive method to achieve a legitimate outcome;
  • You fail to separately address limitation of each of the multiple human rights that vaccine mandates limit;
  • Your broader argument ignores much of the data on whether, in fact, vaccines protect people in ways and to a degree that justifies your mandate.

Chart of the day

An eyeball test. Look at Israel’s vaccination uptake alongside cases and deaths.

Weird, no?

I’d suggest one sensible interpretation is that vaccine mandates have an as-yet unexplained impact on societies.

*See earlier letters for a more scientific treatment of the effect of vaccines.

Recommended reading: New York may tap National Guard to replace unvaccinated healthcare workers

In New York State, “16% of the state’s 450,000 hospital staff, or roughly 72,000 workers, have not been fully vaccinated”. They face the axe. Imagine a healthcare system losing 16% of their staff?

I wonder how many people you will have to fire…

Video of the week

Dr. Mark Changizi is an American theoretical cognitive scientist. He is known for his research on evolutionary origins of biological and cognitive design. He has a PhD in applied mathematics and a B.S. in maths and physics.

Here he discusses whether the unvaccinated are the problem. (Spoiler: they aren’t).

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.

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