The therapeutic use of doll therapy for people with dementia: ethical considerations

Gary Mitchell, Michelle Templeton

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


In light of the growing numbers of people in the population being diagnosed with dementia it is not surprising that researchers and practitioners are becoming more interested in therapeutic techniques that may improve the quality of their lives. The use of doll therapy for people with dementia is one such therapeutic method that has been emerging in recent years. Providing a doll to someone with dementia has been associated with a number of benefits which includes a reduction in episodes of distress, an increase in general well-being, improved dietary intake and higher levels of engagement with others. It could be argued that doll therapy fulfils the concepts of beneficence (facilitates the promotion of well-being) and respect for autonomy (the person with dementia can exercise their right to engage with dolls if they wish). However some may believe that doll therapy is inappropriate when applied to the concepts of dignity (people with dementia are encouraged to interact with dolls) and non-maleficence (potential distress this therapy could cause for family members). While there is some evidence to suggest that the therapeutic use of doll therapy may be beneficial to some people with dementia. The absence of rigorous empirical evidence and legislative guidelines, render this a therapy that must be approached cautiously owing to the varied subjective interpretations of Kitwood’s ‘malignant social psychology’ and bioethics.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2013
Event23rd Alzheimer Europe Conference: Living Well in a dementia friendly society - Hilton Hotel, St Julian's, St Julian's, Malta
Duration: 10 Oct 201212 Oct 2012


Conference23rd Alzheimer Europe Conference
CitySt Julian's
Internet address


  • Dementia
  • Human Rights
  • Ethics
  • Non-Pharmacological Interventions


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