Palliative care for the terminally ill in America: the consideration of QALYs, costs, and ethical issues [Book Review]

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 15 (4):411-416 (2012)
The drive for cost-effective use of medical interventions has advantages, but can also be challenging in the context of end-of-life palliative treatments. A quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) provides a common currency to assess the extent of the benefits gained from a variety of interventions in terms of health-related quality of life and survival for the patient. However, since it is in the nature of end-of-life palliative care that the benefits it brings to its patients are of short duration, it fares poorly under a policy of QALY-maximization. Nevertheless, we argue that the goals of palliative care and QALY are not incompatible, and optimal integration of palliative care into the calculation of QALY may reveal a mechanism to modify considerations of how optimal quality of life can be achieved, even in the face of terminal illness. The use of QALYs in resource allocation means that palliative care will always compete with alternative uses of the same money. More research should be conducted to evaluate choices between palliative care and more aggressive therapies for the terminally ill. However, current limited data show that investing in palliative care makes more sense not only ethically, but also financially
Keywords Palliative care  End-of-life care  Health policy  QALY  Costs  Ethics
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DOI 10.1007/s11019-011-9364-6
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