The number of people in need of long-term care in Germany is rising. At the same time, there is a severe nursing shortage. In view of demographic change, politics and research are increasingly focusing on robotics projects that promise new technical support options in care. At its annual meeting in 2019, the German Ethics Council addressed the complex ethical issues raised by the use of robotic technologies in care and especially in nursing for the elderly. Robots are intended to relieve the burden on nursing staff and to improve the self-determination of those affected. However, mechanical, highly automated access to the lives of those in need of care and the interaction between humans and robots pose new ethical, anthropological and legal challenges for nursing work.
Together with scientists from computer science, medicine, psychology, medical ethics, law and cultural anthropology, it was discussed which potentials and challenges arise in dealing with new assistive systems for the various target groups in nursing care for the elderly. Furthermore, the conference offered the opportunity to get to know specific examples of current robot development and to get an impression of the manifold potentials in practice. The aim of the conference was to subject care robotics to the following critical ethical reflection:
- How should a responsible development of human-machine interaction systems be designed?
- What effects does AI-supported robotics have on the needs of those affected?
- How does robotics change our social and individual images of people and age?
- What legal frameworks are needed to protect patients, relatives and caregivers?