Advanced home care technology: moral questions associated with an ethical ideal [English translation of chapter 4 from: 'Signalering ethiek en gezondheid 2004' (2004/12)]

Patients suffering from a range of severe and less severe conditions are increasingly being treated at home using ever more sophisticated medical technology. Some examples of this trend, which is expected to continue, include intravenous treatment of infections, haemodialysis, respiratory support and telemonitoring. The trend has some clear benefits, but also raises ethical questions. This report investigates the main points at issue. The principal topics are the assignment of responsibilities, the quality of care, the possible stress on other members of the household or relatives called on to fulfil the demanding role of carers, and the possibility that the very availability of technology that can be used in a domestic setting will encourage its use even in circumstances where there may be little medical benefit.