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Report

Ethical challenges with welfare technology

This report summarizes the moral and ethical challenges with welfare technology in today’s health services. The report is commissioned by The Ministry of Health and Care Services.


  • Issued/Revised: 2010
  • Hofmann B. Ethical challenges with welfare technology. Report 2010. ISBN (digital): 978-82-8121-364-7. Available at www.fhi.no/en

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Key message

In the future more people will need health services while there will be fewer people to provide such services. Welfare technology is launched as one important means to meet this challenge. Welfare technology is a heterogeneous group of technologies and there is little evidence of its outcome. Many welfare technologies breach with traditional ways of organizing health services and introduce technologies on new arenas, e.g. at home, with new functions, e.g. supporting social relationships. At the same time welfare technology is developed for groups of people who traditionally have not been heavy users of advanced technology (e.g., the elderly). This raises a series of moral challenges.

This report summarizes the moral and ethical challenges with welfare technology compared to today’s health services. The report is commissioned by The Ministry of Health and Care Services.

Welfare technology is neither good nor bad, as it is such a diverse group of technologies. Every kind of welfare technology has a good goal, however there is little evidence on whether these goals are obtained and whether there are negative side effects. Every kind of welfare technology therefore has to be assessed individually.

This report identifies several challenges which are prominent for various welfare technologies:

  • Autonomy, integrity, dignity
  • Confidentiality, privacy
  • Time for human contact and relations
  • New groups involved : Relatives, technology providers, maintenance personnel
  • New areas of responsibility for relatives and health care personnel
  • Conflicts of interests: who does the welfare technology serve, the patients/users, providers, or industry?
  • Instrumental versus care rationality

Summary

This is a publication from the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services. The Knowledge Centre became part of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health 01/01/2016.

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