Describe the positive effects of interaction with robots for the more vulnerable in the community. Evaluate the ethical issues of using robots in the health sector for the elderly.
Robots are machines resembling human beings and are able to perform human tasks and movements. There is a great amount of new research coming up for the use of robots in the health sector for the community. Robots are becoming very common in the industry and they are starting to get tested in many places around the world. People keep coming up with new researches and information about robots daily. For example, Cyberdene initiated the Hybrid Assistive Limb suit (HAL) which is a machine that enables people to move the muscles they think of moving (Sharkley A, Sharkley N., 2012). This essay will outline the benefits robots might have when used with the more vulnerable in the community and discuss the ethical issues of robot application in elderly healthcare by examining replacement and its implications of labour, safety and moral agency. People argue that robots are the next new thing that will be used in the industry and also believe that they are going to replace humans tasks., while others conclude that robots will not be as capable as humans.
There are some positive effects of interaction with robots for the more vulnerable in the community such as; robots can help the elderly if they need assistance at home and robots can spend time with the elderly if one is feeling lonely. For example, the use of animal assisted therapy (AAT) or pet therapy is a type of method introduced to the lonely. Previous results show that elderly residents which received scheduled (AAT) with either a living or robotic dog were significantly less lonely than those who do not receive those one on one sessions (Banks, M.R., Willoughby, L.M. and Banks, W.A., 2008). Riken developed the Riba robot (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) which can carry patients around and they can recognize voices and faces and respond to certain tasks. Another development was found in the US and was called E1-E which performs similar tasks but can also use verbal commands to open certain doors which marked using different colored towels (Nguyen et al. 2008).
Despite all those positive effects of interaction with robots there are still some ethical issues such as; replacement and its implications for labour, safety and moral agency. Safety is one of the problems we might face with the use of robots because we can not guarantee that the robots would be 100% efficient and safe to use. The robot might be carrying a patient from his bed to the toilet and then something wrong can happen and the person might get injured. In general, researches in the field of healthcare robotics are familiar of those issues and believe one way of overcoming these issues is if the robots should not always follow the patient because of privacy reasons and say that is their main goal to provide the elderly with safety (Stahl, B. C. and Coeckelbergh, M., 2016). Safety is one of things I think people should take more seriously and provide proper research for before robots become more commonly used.
Replacement and its implications for labour is another main problem we might overcome with the use of robots because robots in the near future might replace people’s jobs and then the people would be jobless (Stahl, B. C. and Coeckelbergh, M., 2016). Nurses were trained to help people but now with the advanced research of robots people will probably start losing their jobs because of the lack of funds, which will lead to unemployment and people might worry because what if the robots do not perform to the standards people are hoping for. Empathy and the ability to display and understand emotion is a major disadvantage with the use of robots (Kanamori M, Suzuki M, Tanaka M., 2002).
Another problem might be moral agency because we can program the robot to do what we want him to do but sometimes we can not control what the robot should do. The patient might request to be thrown out of the window but we are not sure if the robot would do it or not. That is why I believe the robots need more programming and humans should still be involved because of the robots lack of moral agency.
In conclusion, robots are making a great impact on the environment with many positive effects, but there are still many ethical issues which might need more research into so robots can be efficiently used in the near future.
Banks, M.R., Willoughby, L.M. and Banks, W.A., 2008. Animal-assisted therapy and loneliness in nursing homes: use of robotic versus living dogs. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 9(3), pp.173-177.
Kanamori M, Suzuki M, Tanaka M. [Maintenance and improvement of quality of life among elderly patients using a pet-type robot.] Nippon Ronen Iggakkai Zasshi 2002;39:214218. Japanese.
Stahl, B.C. and Coeckelbergh, M., 2016. Ethics of healthcare robotics: Towards responsible research and innovation. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 86, pp.152-161.
Sharkey A, and Sharkey N (2012) Granny and the robots: ethical issues in robot care for the elderly. Ethics and Information Technology 12, 27-40, this extract pp.29-31