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Can the NICE "end-of-life premium" be given a coherent ethical justification?

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Publication details

JournalJournal of health politics policy and law
DatePublished - Dec 2013
Issue number6
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)1129-48
Original languageEnglish


In 2009 the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) announced that its health technology appraisal committees would henceforth give special additional weight to health gains from life-extending end-of-life treatments. This was a response to mounting concern from NICE's stakeholders that effective new drugs for end-stage cancer often fail NICE's standard test of cost effectiveness. This change of policy may be justifiable on procedural grounds as the result of a democratic political process responding to stakeholder concerns. However, according to the "accountability for reasonableness" framework proposed by the philosopher Norman Daniels and endorsed by NICE, there also needs to be transparency about the substantive ethical grounds for public health care resource allocation decisions. In that spirit, I analyze eleven potentially relevant justifications for the NICE "end-of-life premium," drawn from the economics and philosophy literature: (1) rule of rescue, (2) fair chances, (3) ex post willingness to pay, (4) caring externality, (5) financial protection, (6) symbolic value, (7) diminishing marginal value of future life years, (8) concentration of benefits, (9) dread, (10) time to set your affairs in order, and (11) severity of illness. I conclude that none of them yields a coherent ethical justification for the NICE end-of-life premium.

    Research areas

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis, Great Britain, Health Care Rationing, Health Policy, Humans, Life Expectancy, Politics, Quality-Adjusted Life Years, State Medicine, Technology Assessment, Biomedical, Time Factors

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