Ethical issues arising from a research, technology and development project to support frail older people and their family carers at home

Health Soc Care Community. 2003 Sep;11(5):431-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2524.2003.00446.x.


The present paper provides an overview of the application of the key ethical issues which arose in an EU-funded research, technology and development project, Assisting Carers using Telematics Interventions to meet Older Persons' Needs (ACTION). The primary aim of the ACTION project was to support frail older people and their family carers in their own homes across England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden and Portugal via the use of user-friendly information and communication technology. Ethical guidelines were developed in the project and used as a tool to enable the multidisciplinary project team to increase their awareness of ethical issues in their everyday work, and to act as a useful ethical framework for regular team discussions at international and local meetings across the partner countries. A range of ethical issues arose during the field-study phases of the project when the ACTION services were introduced into a number of families' own homes. It can be argued that these ethical issues reflect factors relating both to the application of research into practice, as well as those relating more directly to the use of new technology by families and care professionals. Key issues centre upon the ethical concepts of autonomy, independence, quality of life, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice, and more specifically, on ethical issues of security, privacy and confidentiality, increased expectations, and withdrawal of the service. This paper is intended to facilitate dialogue and debate in the area of enabling (assistive) technology in home care for older people and their families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Beneficence
  • Confidentiality
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Home Nursing / ethics*
  • Home Nursing / methods
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Male
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Privacy
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality of Life
  • Self-Help Devices / ethics*
  • Telemedicine / ethics*
  • Telemedicine / instrumentation