Virtual carers for the elderly: A case study review of ethical responsibilities

Tom Garner, Wendy Powell*, Valerie Carr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Intelligent digital healthcare systems are becoming an increasingly considered approach to facilitating continued support of our ageing population. Within the remit of such digital systems, ‘Virtual Carer’ is one of the more consistent terms that refers to an artificial system capable of providing various assistive living and communicative functionalities, embodied within a graphical avatar displayed on a screen. As part of the RITA (Responsive Interactive Advocate) project – a proof of concept for one such virtual carer system – a series of semi-structured discussions with various stakeholders was conducted. This paper presents the results of these discussions to highlight data security, replacement of human/physical care and always acting in the user’s best interest. These three ethical concerns and designer responsibilities are identified as highly relevant to both individuals and groups that may, in the future, utilise a system like RITA either as a care receiver or provider. This paper also presents some initial, theoretical safeguard processes relevant to these key concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Article number 10.1177/2055207616681173
JournalDigital Health
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • machine ethics
  • digital avatar
  • avataar
  • virtual carer
  • elderly care
  • automated systems


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