September 2014, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 183-195,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 25 Mar 2014
Robot carers, ethics, and older people
This paper offers an ethical framework for the development of robots as home companions that are intended to address the isolation and reduced physical functioning of frail older people with capacity, especially those living alone in a noninstitutional setting. Our ethical framework gives autonomy priority in a list of purposes served by assistive technology in general, and carebots in particular. It first introduces the notion of “presence” and draws a distinction between humanoid multi-function robots and non-humanoid robots to suggest that the former provide a more sophisticated presence than the latter. It then looks at the difference between lower-tech assistive technological support for older people and its benefits, and contrasts these with what robots can offer. This provides some context for the ethical assessment of robotic assistive technology. We then consider what might need to be added to presence to produce care from a companion robot that deals with older people’s reduced functioning and isolation. Finally, we outline and explain our ethical framework. We discuss how it combines sometimes conflicting values that the design of a carebot might incorporate, if informed by an analysis of the different roles that can be served by a companion robot.
Alaszewski, A., & Cappello, R. (2006). Piloting telecare in Kent County council: The key lessons. Final report. Canterbury: University of Kent, Centre for Health Services Studies.
Bayer, S., Barlow, J., & Curry, R. (2007). Assessing the impact of a care innovation: Telecare. System Dynamics Review, 23(1), 61–80.CrossRef
Borenstein, J., & Pearson, Y. (2010). Robotic caregivers: Harbingers of expanded freedom for all?’. Ethics and Information Technology, 12(3), 277–288.CrossRef
Bowes, A., & McColgan, G. (2006). Smart technology and community care for older people: innovation in West Lothian, Scotland. Edinburgh: Age Concern Scotland.
Brownsell, S., Bradley, D., & Porteous, J. (2003). Assistive technology and telecare: Forging solutions for independent living. Bristol: The Policy Press.
Clark, R. A., Inglis, S. C., McAlister, F. A., et al. (2007). Telemonitoring or structured telephone support programmes for patients with chronic heart failure: Systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 333, 942.CrossRef
Coeckelbergh, M. (2010). Personal robots, appearance and human good: A methodological reflection on robots. International Journal of Social Robots, 1(3), 217–221.CrossRef
Coeckelbergh, M. (2012). How I learned to love the robot: Capabilities, information technology and elderly care. In I. Oosterlaken & J. van den Hoven (Eds.), The capabilities approach, technology and design (pp. 77–85). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRef
Dang, S., Dimmick, S., & Kelkar, G. (2009). Evaluating the evidence base for the use of home telehealth remote monitoring in elderly with heart failure. Telemedicine and e-Health, 15(8), 783–796.CrossRef
Decker, M. (2008). Caring robots and ethical reflection: The perspective of interdisciplinary technology assessment. AI & SOCIETY, 22(3), 315–330.CrossRef
Department of Health. (2005). Building telecare in England. London: Crown.
Department of Health. (2008). High quality care for all: NHS Next stage review. London: Crown.
Department of Health. (2010). Building the National Care Service. London: Crown.
Dixon, R. F., & Stahl, J. E. (2009). A randomized trial of virtual visits in a general medicine practice. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 15(3), 115–117.CrossRef
Doughty, K., Monk, A., Bayliss, C., et al. (2007). Telecare, telehealth and assistive technologies—do we know what we’re talking about? Journal of Assistive Technologies, 1(2), 6–10.CrossRef
Draper, H., & Sorell, T. (2002). Patients’ responsibilities in medical ethics. Bioethics, 16(4), 335–353.CrossRef
Draper, H. & Sorell, T. (2012). ‘Telecare and Care’ Bioethics 16th April. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8519.2012.01961.x.
Fisk, M. (2003). Social alarms to telecare: Older people’s services in transitions. Bristol: The Policy Press.
Garćia-Lizana, F., & Sarrĩa-Santamera, A. (2007). New technologies for chronic disease management and control: A systematic review. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 13, 62–68.CrossRef
Greenhalgh, T., Procter, R., Wherton, J., et al. (2012). The organising vision for telehealth and telecare: Discourse analysis. BMJ Open, 2, e001574.CrossRef
Lim, F. S., Foo, M., Kanagalingam, D., et al. (2007). Enhancing chronic disease management through telecare—the Singapore Health Services Experience. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 13(Suppl. 3), 73–75.CrossRef
Misselhorn, C., Pompe, U., & Stapelton, M. (2013). Ethical considerations regarding the use of social robots in the fourth age. The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(2), 121–133.CrossRef
Murray, E. et al. (2011). Why is it difficult to implement e-health initiatives? A qualitative study. Implementation Science, 6(6), 1–11.
OECD (2011). Health at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/health_glance-2011-en.
Paré, G., Jaana, M., & Sicotte, C. (2007). Systematic review of home telemonitoring for chronic diseases: The evidence base. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 14(3), 269–277.CrossRef
Parks, J. (2010). Lifting the burden of women’s care work: Should robots replace the “human touch”? Hypatia, 25(1), 100–120.CrossRef
Percival, J., & Hanson, J. (2006). Big brother or brave new world? Telecare and its Implications for older people’s independence and social inclusion. Critical Social Policy, 26, 888–909. see esp. p. 898.CrossRef
Perry, J., Beyer, S., & Holm, S. (2009). Assistive technology, telecare and people with intellectual disabilities: Ethical considerations. Journal of Medical Ethics, 35, 81–86.CrossRef
Pols, J. (2010). The heart of the matter: About good nursing and telecare. Health Care Analysis, 18(4), 374–388.CrossRef
Poole, T. (2006). Wanless social care review: Telecare and older people. London: The King’s Fund.
Robinson, L., et al. (2007). Balancing rights and risks: Conflicting perspectives in the management of wandering in dementia. Health, Risk and Society, 9, 389–406.CrossRef
Rogers, A., et al. (2011). Established users and the making of telecare work in long-term condition management: Implications for health policy. Social Science and Medicine, 72, 1077–1084.CrossRef
Sävenstedt, S., Zingmark, K., Hydén, L.-C., & Brulin, C. (2005). Establishing joint attention in remote talks with the elderly about health: A study of nurses’ conversation with elderly persons in teleconsultations. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 19, 317–324.CrossRef
Sharkey, A., & Sharkey, N. (2010). Granny and the robots: Ethical issues in robotic care for the elderly. Ethics and Information Technology,. doi:10.1007/s10676-010-9234-6.
Sorell, T., & Draper, H. (2012). Telecare, surveillance and the welfare state. The American Journal of Bioethics, 12(9), 36–44.CrossRef
Sparrow, R., & Sparrow, L. (2006). In the hands of machines? The future of aged care. Minds and Machines, 16(2), 141–161.CrossRef
Stienstra, J., & Marti, P. (2012). Squeeze me: gently please. Paper presented to NordiCHI 2012 conference in October 2012.
Turkle, S. (2006) A nascent robotics culture: new complexities for companionship. AAAI Technology Report Series Available online http://web.mit.edu/sturkle/www/pdfsforstwebpage/ST_Nascent%20Robotics%20Culture.pdf accessed 5.9.2012.
Vallor, S. (2011). Carebots and caregivers: Sustaining the ethical ideal of care in the 21st century. Philosophy and Technology, 24, 254.CrossRef
Van der Plas, A., Smits, M., & Werhmann, C. (2010). Beyond speculative robot ethics: A vision assessment study on the future of the robotic caretaker. Accountability in Research, 17(6), 299–315.CrossRef
Woolham, J. (2006). Safe at home—the effectiveness of assistive technology in supporting the independence of people with dementia: The safe at home project. London: Hawker Publications.
- Robot carers, ethics, and older people
- Open Access
- Available under Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Ethics and Information Technology
Volume 16, Issue 3 , pp 183-195
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer Netherlands
- Additional Links
- Assistive technology
- Nature of care
- Industry Sectors
- Author Affiliations
- 1. Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick, Social Sciences, Gibbet Hill Road, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK
- 2. Medicine, Ethics, Society and History (MESH), School of Health and Population Sciences, University of Birmingham, 90, Vincent Drive, Birmingham, B152TT, UK