Justice and empowerment through digital health: ethical challenges and opportunities

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The proposition that digital innovations can put people in charge of their health has been accompanied by prolific talk of empowerment. In this paper we consider ethical challenges and opportunities of trying to achieve justice and empowerment using digital health initiatives. The language of empowerment can misleadingly suggest that by using technology, people can control their health and take responsibility for health outcomes to a greater degree than is realistic or fair. Also, digital health empowerment often primarily reaches people who already have high technological and health literacy, leaving others behind. We critically investigate whether the concept of health empowerment could be re-engineered to mean something different, namely the process of improving the health literacy and access of those who least possess it, in line with recent proposals for conceptual engineering in the service of justice. We settle on the weaker conclusion that underlying ethical values including justice should be used to interpret the existing concept of empowerment. To conclude, we take a high-level view of various strategies for achieving the ethical value associated with digital health empowerment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number42
Number of pages15
JournalDigital Society
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2023


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