The ethical evaluation of assistive
technology for practitioners: a checklist
arising from a participatory study with
people with dementia, family and
Purpose – Uncertainty over ethical impact may hinder uptake of assistive technology (AT) in dementia.
This study aims to examine whether AT contributes to person-centred care, whether users can
participate in research and to explore ethical dilemmas with users, family and professional carers.
Design/methodology/approach – People with dementia, at home or in residential care, and carers
were allocated equipment and consulted about ethics. In a small, qualitative study, data were collected
using semi-structured interviews and vignettes and content-analysed to establish themes.
Findings – AT in person-centred dementia care requires meticulous assessment, reliability and
availability in rapidly evolving situations. Users displayed insight, logic and empathy in ethical
evaluation. They disliked remote monitoring and surveillance, whereas carers were pragmatic,
Research limitations/implications – This research provides further evidence that users with dementia
can be included in research. It demonstrates a signiﬁcant potential role for AT in dementia care, with an
ethical checklist to help professionals evaluate ethical dilemmas.
Originality/value – AT potentially increases wellbeing, enabling users to remain longer at home,
delaying or avoiding moves to or between homes.
Keywords Service user voice, Telecare, Social inclusion, Social justice,
Moves to residential and nursing homes, Dementia ‘‘career’’, Mental health services, Social care,
Paper type Research paper
In the midst of day-to-day pressures, dementia professionals and family carers seldom have
time to evaluate the ethical implications of assistive technology (AT). Ethical concerns about
technology use were recently identiﬁed as one of the barriers to the uptake of AT among
social care professionals and informal carers (Clark and McGee-Lennon, 2011). Fears about
obtaining consent and privacy issues relating to ATand telecare (deﬁned by the Department
of Health (2005) as ‘‘care provided at a distance using information and communication
DOI 10.1108/17549451211234975 VOL. 6 NO. 2 2012, pp. 123-135, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1754-9450
JOURNAL OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES
Beatrice Godwin is based
at the Centre for Death and
Society, University of Bath,