Ethical Design and Use of Robotic Care of the Elderly

Ethical Design and Use of Robotic Care of the Elderly

Recent Developments

Open Access. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry. Published 21 March 2022.

Carolyn Johnston

Abstract: The Australian Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety acknowledged understaffing and substandard care in residential aged care and home care services, and recommendations were made that that the Australian Government should promote assistive technology within aged care. Robotic care assistants can provide care and companionship for the elderly—both in their own homes and within health and aged care institutions. Although more research is required into their use, studies indicate benefits, including enabling the elderly to live independently at home, assistance with medication and monitoring of safety. Nevertheless, there are inherent ethical challenges in the use of robots as carers, including loss of privacy, unwarranted restrictions on autonomy, lack of dignity, deception, and the exacerbation of loneliness. Ethics by design can counter these issues in development of robotics and clinical ethics committees have been put forward as a way of dealing with the ethical use of robotic care in healthcare institutions. In this paper I outline the ethical challenges of robotic care assistants and how these may be mediated in their design and use.

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