a1 Health Science Center, Texas A&M College of Medicine, USA.
a2 The Ethox Centre, University of Oxford, UK.
Fall detectors are a form of remote monitoring assistive technology that have the potential to enhance the wellbeing of adults at risk from falling. In this paper, the ethical issues raised by the use of fall detectors are examined. The fall detection devices currently available are outlined, and a summary of how these devices require social-care services, or family carers, to respond in particular ways, is provided. The ethical issues associated with the use of fall detectors are classified under four headings: autonomy, privacy, benefit, and the use of resources. These issues, we argue, arise out of the nature of the technology itself, and the way that this technology is integrated into the day-to-day support package of the person for whom it is provided. It is argued that manufacturers have a duty to provide information about the ‘ethical side-effects’ associated with the use of a particular device, and that the process of making a decision to provide a person with a fall detector should include a checklist of questions that is designed to enable decision makers to work through the ethical issues raised.
(Accepted November 08 2010)
(Online publication February 07 2011)