Legal Considerations

  • (i) All relevant laws and regulations concerning individuals’ rights and protections (e.g., FDA [Food and Drug Administration], HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Affordability Act], and FTC [Federal Trade Commission]) are to be respected.
  • (j) A robot’s decision path must be re-constructible for the purposes of litigation and dispute resolution.
  • (k) Human informed consent to HRI is to be facilitated to the greatest extent possible consistent with reasonable design objectives.

Social Considerations

  • (l) Wizard-of-Oz should be employed as judiciously and carefully as possible and should aim to avoid Turing deceptions.
  • (m) The tendency for humans to form attachments to and anthropomorphize robots should be carefully considered during design.
  • (n) Humanoid morphology and functionality is permitted only to the extent necessary for the achievement of reasonable design objectives.
  • (o) Avoid racist, sexist, and ableist morphologies and behaviors in robot design.

But, such ethical tensions are not meant to scare or shy practitioners away from considering the use and application of robots in their rehabilitation practice. Instead, we argue that the entirety of this chapter is meant to promote continued critical reflection on the implications of the use of robots given the evidence-based benefits that are thoroughly outlined in each chapter of this book.

The following sections describe the ethical implications of using robots in several settings of rehabilitation practice; the attempt is to illustrate the unique considerations that pertain to each. Although the following list is not exclusive, it is meant to frame the discussions and reflections around the most salient settings of rehabilitation robotics practice.

As is described in previous chapters, advances in assistive robotics that have the potential for assisting persons with disabilities are commonly divided into two broad categories: physically assistive robots (PARs) or Socially Assistive Robots (SARs). PARs are designed to provide assistance with manipulation of objects or mobility of the person. Feil-Seifer and MatariC (2005) defined SARs as robotic devices whose goal is “to create close and effective interaction with a human user for the purpose of giving assistance and achieving measurable progress in convalescence, rehabilitation, and rehabilitation, and learning” (Feil-Seifer and Mataric 2005, 465).

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