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Robots in health care raise ethical dilemmas

Published torsdag 19 februari 2015 kl 15.20
Robot seal used in health care. Photo: Izavelle Leijström.
Robot seal used in health care. Photo: Izavelle Leijström.

The Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics says robots can have a positive impact on elderly care, but that they also raise ethical dilemmas.

In countries like Japan and Denmark, robots are being used more and more in health care, especially within elderly care. While robot use might not be as high in Sweden, it is increasing here and the Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics says that the technology, which includes surveillance elements, raises some important ethical questions that also need to be dealt with.

In a report published Thursday, the Council outlined the benefits and potential pitfalls of the use of robots and surveillance within elderly care.

Robots can for instance help elderly people with showering and using the bathroom. Robots that resemble animals can even replace pets, offering companionship and helping people who would not be able to take a real dog for a walk, for example.

According to the Council, robots can help increases elderly people's independence and they can alleviate carers by carrying out chores that involve heavy lifting.

But, the council says, as robots become more common, it is also important that patients can give informed consent before they are given surveillance technologies and one should always have the right to opt out and chose human service if that is one’s preference, according to the Council.

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