Health technology assessment: Trying to bring empirical and ethical inquiry together

Poiesis and Praxis 2 (s 2-3):195-206 (2004)
Abstract
A comprehensive assessment of a health technology requires that a wide variety of questions are addressed. These range from whether the use of a technology results in achievement of its intended effects (e.g., better tumour control, pain relief, improved mobility, etc.) at acceptable costs and without incurring undue risks to the patient, to whether its use may challenge existing social arrangements and values (e.g., individual responsibility for preserving good health, the value of human life, etc.). Clearly, this is a major challenge, since it requires the use of quite different methods of inquiry. In the past decades, we have rarely witnessed assessments where both types of questions were addressed in a balanced way. Rather, a wide gap exists between inquiries with a strong empirical focus and an almost complete neglect of underlying normative issues, and inquiries which are largely discursive, but with a serious disregard of relevant empirical data. The complex interplay between normative frameworks and empirical data in the assessment of health technologies is illustrated in two case studies: the assessment of surgical management of children with glue ears, and the assessment of Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation in neonates
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