The concept of social dignity as a yardstick to delimit ethical use of robotic assistance in the care of older persons

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 25 (1):99-110 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


With robots being introduced into caregiving, particularly for older persons, various ethical concerns are raised. Among them is the fear of replacing human caregiving. While ethical concepts like well-being, autonomy, and capabilities are often used to discuss these concerns, this paper brings forth the concept of social dignity to further develop guidelines concerning the use of robots in caregiving. By social dignity, we mean that a person’s perceived dignity changes in response to certain interactions and experiences with other persons. In this paper, we will first present the concept of social dignity, and then identify a niche where robots can be used in caregiving in an ethical manner. Specifically, we will argue that, because some activities of daily living are performed in solitude to maintain dignity, a care recipient will usually prefer robotic assistance instead of human assistance for these activities. Secondly, we will describe how other philosophical concepts, which have been commonly used to judge robotic assistance in caregiving for the elderly so far, such as well-being, autonomy, and capabilities, are less useful in determining whether robotic assistance in caregiving is ethically problematic or not. To conclude, we will argue that social dignity offers an advantage to the other concepts, as it allows to ask the most pressing questions in caregiving.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,038

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Demands of Dignity in Robotic Care.Arto Laitinen, Marketta Niemelä & Jari Pirhonen - 2019 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 23 (3):366-401.
Death and dignity in Catholic Christian thought.Daniel P. Sulmasy - 2017 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 20 (4):537-543.
Ethical Dimension of Responsible Palliative Care for the Terminally Ill.Alexandra Smatanová - 2014 - Ethics and Bioethics (in Central Europe) 4 (3-4):155-164.
Analyzing dignity: a perspective from the ethics of care.Carlo Leget - 2013 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 16 (4):945-952.
Reflections on the function of dignity in the context of caring for old people.George J. Agich - 2007 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 32 (5):483 – 494.
"Reconsidering Dignity Relationally".Sarah Clark Miller - 2017 - Ethics and Social Welfare 11 (2):108-121.
The concepts of dignity : an analysis.Lennart Nordenfelt - 2021 - Ersta Sköndal Bräcke Högskola Arbetsrapportserie 99.
Dignity as a moral concept.Colin Bird - 2013 - Social Philosophy and Policy 30 (1-2):150-176.
Dignity in Long-Term Care for Older Persons: A Confucian Perspective.J. T. L. Po Wah - 2007 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 32 (5):465-481.
Dignity in long-term care for older persons: A confucian perspective.Julia Tao Lai Po Wah - 2007 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 32 (5):465 – 481.


Added to PP

25 (#634,233)

6 months
22 (#122,642)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Félix Pageau
Université Laval
Athena Mclean
Central Michigan University