In a previous post, I mentioned that people need people; one way or the other, humans will be taking care of each other even when robots have become much more useful than they are now.
Still, I do not believe it is unethical for a robot to be taking care of a human being. It could be helpful in many ways. For instance, if a carer is not the strong type and the dependent needs moving, say from a bed to a wheelchair and back. A strong load-bearing robot could help with that task.
Nevertheless, I don’t believe we are at a point where we can allow robots to make independent decisions when it comes to health care. We could have them help us make the decision, act as a guide or get them to help sorting out facts and figures. However, at the end of the day, the decision should still be up to human carers.
Robots, definitely, can help take care but that does not necessarily mean that they care themselves. That will require a much higher level of artificial intelligence. At this time, to do the jobs they can do for healthcare, they do not need to care.
As for how we will choose, I think it will ultimately depend on the level of care and the type of care that a human requires. Standards will have to be set but I don’t think this is something we can fit in a one-size-fits-all decision table. Those standards will only be there to guide us but we will still have to fit them to the needs of a patient.
The biggest issue I can see to using carer robots is resistance to technology. We can already see that the elderly will be the very first ones who could use some help from robots, when the technology markedly improves. However, it is also a fact that the elderly are not usually the first ones to adapt new technologies. So, we will have to find a way to introduce robots to healthcare in such a way that the elderly will not be repulsed by the shiny new nurse trying to take care of them.