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A remarkable surge in efforts to assess the quality of life of patients has occurred in recent years in medical research. Philosophical discussions of these developments have focused, on the one hand, on epistemological reservations about the plausibility of measuring quality of life and, on the other hand, on moral and ethical qualms about the meaning of life conveyed in such assessments. Whilst providing an important note of caution, such critiques fail to recognise two basic principles of quality of life in medical research. Firstly, it is intended to provide understanding about groups and categories of patients rather than individuals. Secondly the purpose of such research is to produce generalisations about the relative costs and benefits of specific health care interventions rather than absolute judgements regarding the quality of life of patients per se. Selecting a good quality of life measure for a clinical trial requires balancing criteria such as validity with practical feasibility. Such measures will play an increasingly central role in providing research evidence to improve health care.


Journal article


Ethical Theory Moral Pract

Publication Date





37 - 46


Analytical Approach, Biomedical and Behavioral Research, Empirical Approach, Health Care and Public Health, Clinical Trials as Topic, Health Services Research, Health Status Indicators, Humans, Psychometrics, Quality of Life, Reproducibility of Results, Research Design, Surveys and Questionnaires