Assistive technologies for people with dementia: Ethical considerations

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2017, 95 (11), pp. 749 - 755
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© 2017, World Health Organization. All rights reserved. The sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015 include a new target for global health: SDG 3 aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” Dementia care of good quality is particularly important given the projected increase in the number of people living with the condition. A range of assistive technologies have been proposed to support dementia care. However, the World Health Organization estimated in 2017 that only one in 10 of the 1 billion or more people globally who could benefit from these technologies in some way actually has access to them. For people living with dementia, there has been little analysis of whether assistive technologies will support their human rights in ways that are consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The aim of this paper is to examine the relevant provisions of the convention and consider their implications for the use of assistive technologies in dementia care. Assistive technologies can clearly play an important role in supporting social engagement, decision-making and advance planning by people living with dementia. However, concerns exist that some of these technologies also have the potential to restrict freedom of movement and intrude into privacy. In conclusion, an analysis of the implications of assistive technologies for human rights laws is needed to ensure that technologies are used in ways that support human rights and help meet the health-related SDG 3.
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