Measuring the quality of life: Why, how and what?

In this paper three questions concerning quality of life in medicine and health care are analysed and discussed: the motives for measuring the quality of life, the methods used in assessing it, and the definition of the concept. The purposes of the study are to find an ethically acceptable motive for measuring the quality of life; to identify the methodological advantages and disadvantages of the most prevalent current methods of measurement; and to present an approach towards measuring and defining the quality of life which evades the difficulties encountered and discussed. The analysis comprises measurements both in the clinical situation concerning individual patients and in research concerning whole populations.Three motives are found for evaluating the quality of human life: allocation of scarce medical resources, facilitating clinical decision making, and assisting patients towards autonomous decision making. It is argued that the third alternative is the only one which does not evoke ethical problems.
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