An amazing growing area in healthcare is the increase in the development of technology that is designed to augment human functioning and decrease an individual’s dependence on others to provide personal care. Yet, what does it mean to extend a person’s life through technology? Within the context of a hypothetical case, this article considers ethical questions raised by new and futuristic technologies designed to augment human functioning. These ethical issues are grounded within the context of the possibilities and the pitfalls of technology. When providing care to patients and families, nurses must recognize and understand the significant ways in which quality of life, personhood, accessibility, and cost may be challenged by the promises of new technologies.
Judith A. Erlen, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor, Doctoral Program Coordinator, and Associate Director, Center for Research in Chronic Disorders, School of Nursing, and Professor, Center for Bioethics and Health Law, University of Pittsburgh, PA.