In QALY-thinking, an activity that takes N people from a bad state (including 'dying') to the state of healthy for X years should have priority over an activity that takes N other people from the same bad state to a state of moderate illness for the same number of years (given equal costs). An empirical study indicates that this view may not be shared by the general public in Norway. Subjects tended to emphasise equality in value of life and in entitlement to treatment rather than level of health after treatment. The relevance of costs per QALY in prioritising between different health care programmes in Norway is thereby brought in to doubt. While the sample in the study is too small to support firm policy conclusions, the results should contribute to an increased interest among health economists in actually measuring people's ethical preferences in matters of prioritising, rather than taking it for granted that their own values are shared by the general public.
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