Many healthcare agencies are producing evidence-based guidance and policy that may determine the availability of particular healthcare products and procedures, effectively rationing aspects of healthcare. They claim legitimacy for their decisions through reference to evidence-based scientific method and the implementation of just decision-making procedures, often citing the criteria of ‘accountability for reasonableness’; publicity, relevance, challenge and revision, and regulation. Central to most decision methods are estimates of gains in quality-adjusted life-years (QALY), a measure that combines the length and quality of survival. However, all agree that the QALY alone is not a sufficient measure of all relevant aspects of potential healthcare benefits, and a number of value assessment frameworks have been suggested. I argue that the practical implementation of these procedures has the potential to lead to a distorted assessment of value. Undue weight may be ascribed to certain attributes, particularly those that favour commercial or political interests, while other attributes that are highly valued by society, particularly those related to care processes, may be omitted or undervalued. This may be compounded by a lack of transparency to relevant stakeholders, resulting in an inability for them to participate in, or challenge, the decisions. The makes it likely that costly new technologies, for which inflated prices can be justified by the current value frameworks, are displacing aspects of healthcare that are highly valued by society.
- allocation of health care resources
- distributive justice
- health economics
- quality/value of life/personhood
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Contributors All aspects of the work were carried out by the sole author.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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