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Balancing Privacy, Dignity and Safety in the use of Surveillance Technologies for the Care of Elderly with Dementia

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This paper offers an ethical analysis of a case study focusing on the use of surveillance technologies for the care of elderly with dementia at a nursing home in Denmark. The tendency to wander away from home is a dangerous and recurring event at the care center, and it is crucial for the care staff to manage and, if possible, even prevent this from happening. Care centers try to provide solutions through different methods, including using technologies for monitoring and tracking individuals.

However, a number of difficulties can be identified, not simply concerning legal limitations or technological challenges, but more importantly about sustaining a secure and dignified life for elderly with dementia. How can we create safety and security for citizens with dementia while still protecting their dignity and privacy? The technologies available to prevent wandering may create unwanted knowledge which can violate an individual’s privacy (Macklin, 2003). The care staff may also become participants in a surveillance situation in which they risk losing their autonomy at work. As such, surveillance technologies come with ethical ambivalence. As instruments of both control and care, it can often be difficult to draw the line between acceptable and unwarranted surveillance (Lyon, 2001). The use of surveillance technologies thus requires ethical decision, as it creates ethical scenarios which must be considered (Albrechtslund, 2007).

In the paper, we discuss the possible balance between ethical and safety concerns in using surveillance technologies in the care for elderly with dementia, and we investigate approaches to and materials for involving care staff and other relevant actors in considering the ethical dilemmas in the care for dementia patients.

Albrechtslund, A. (2007). Ethics and Technology Design. Ethics and Information Technology, 9(1), 63–72.
Lyon, D. (2001). Surveillance Society. Buckingham: Open University.
Macklin, R. (2003). Dignity is a Useless Concept: It means no more than respect for persons or their autonomy. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 327(7429), 1419.
Original languageDanish
Publication year2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventThe Society for Philosophy and Technology Conference 2021 - UCLille, Lille, France
Duration: 28 Jun 202130 Jun 2021


ConferenceThe Society for Philosophy and Technology Conference 2021
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    Research areas

  • Dementia

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