Autonomy vs. Veracity: Doll Therapy in Dementia Care

Gary Mitchell, Joanne Agnelli

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


In light of the increasing population experiencing dementia it is not surprising that researchers and practitioners are increasingly interested in therapeutic ways to improve the quality of lives of people with dementia. The therapeutic use of dolls, for people with dementia, is one method that has been growing in recent years. Providing a doll to someone with dementia has been associated with a number of benefits which include: reduction in episodes of distress, increase in general well-being, improved dietary intake and higher levels of engagement with others. Despite some positive findings from empirical studies, there are some limitations to the practice of doll therapy.
The therapeutic use of dolls for people with dementia is a contentious issue. It can be argued that it fulfils the concepts of beneficence (promotes well-being) and respect for autonomy (as the person can freely decide to engage with dolls if they wish). However it can also be argued that doll therapy is unethical when consideration is given to dignity (in that people with dementia are encouraged to interact with dolls), veracity (as the health professional is usually encouraged to treat the doll like a real-life baby) and non-maleficence (considering the potential distress this therapy could cause for family members).
There is evidence to suggest that doll therapy in dementia care can be of benefit to some people with dementia. However in the absence of rigorous empirical evidence or legislative guidelines, it is a therapy that must be approached with a degree of caution.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2015
Event30th International Conference of Alzheimer Disease International: Care, Cure and the Dementia Experience - A Global Challenge - Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, Perth, Australia
Duration: 15 Apr 201518 Apr 2015


Conference30th International Conference of Alzheimer Disease International
Internet address


  • Dementia
  • Doll Therapy
  • Ethics
  • Human Rights
  • Older People
  • Dignity


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