Who is actually liable for care robots?

16. May 2024
Ruben Andreas Sakowsky

In the German city of Potsdam, a randomly selected citizens' conference is looking into the use of robots in elderly care. A number of interesting questions are listed on the website of the mini-public. Among them: Who is actually liable for a care robot?

"Ensuring needs-based care for older people in the future is one of the fundamental social and political challenges of our time. In view of the shortage of skilled labour and an ageing society, the increased use of technologies such as robots is being discussed," says the website of the "Potsdam Citizens' Conference: Robotics in Elderly Care?" project.

Much is technically conceivable. However, it is also necessary to ask what good care should look like in the future, under what conditions robots should be used in geriatric care and when they should not be used.

Citizens' conference as part of the E-cARE project

The citizens' conference is being organised as part of the E-cARE project. The project is researching the responsible use of robotics in elderly care. A team of scientists from the Junior Professorship for Medical Ethics is developing an ethics guideline on the appropriate use of technical assistance systems for the Federal Ministry of Health.

The E-cARE project aims to analyse the conditions for the responsible use of (social) robotics in the care of older people.

Questions

The project focusses on the following questions:

  • What ethical opportunities and risks are evident in the use of social robotics in elderly care?
  • What changes in terms of care interactions and relationships are perceived through the use of social robotics?
  • How can an ethically appropriate integration of (social) robotics be realised from the perspective of those (potentially future) affected?
  • Which ethical principles should guide the use of robotic assistance systems (in the future)?

The aim of the project is to provide guidance on the areas and ways in which supplementing or replacing care work with (social) robotics may be responsible or even necessary.

"The future of care should not just be decided by experts. The opinions of citizens must also be heard in the public and political debate," is the justification for the citizens' conference.

25 participants

In cooperation with the city of Potsdam, 3,500 randomly selected citizens were invited to the conference. From the pool of those willing to participate, a group of 25 participants of different ages, professional backgrounds and levels of experience on the topic were selected according to various characteristics.

The participants will come together over three weekends to develop a set of rules for the responsible use of robotics. The dates are 27/28 April, 25/26 May and 15/16 June 2024. As part of the citizens' conference, experts will be heard and questioned by the participants. Participants will also have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the robots that could be used in elderly care in the future.

Organisation and moderation

The Citizens' Conference is organised by the Junior Professorship for Medical Ethics with a focus on digitalisation at the Faculty of Health Sciences Brandenburg. The citizens' conference is supported by a moderation team from the think and do tank neuland21. Neuland21 focuses on the possibilities of digitalisation to improve the quality of life, particularly in rural areas.

Learn more: Citizens' Conference: Robotics in Elderly Care?