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Soc Sci Med. 2018 May;204:39-50. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.03.010. Epub 2018 Mar 7.

Valuing health at the end of life: A review of stated preference studies in the social sciences literature.

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Office of Health Economics, UK; School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, UK. Electronic address:
School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, UK; Department of Economics, University of Sheffield, UK.
School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, UK.


A source of debate in the health care priority setting literature is whether to weight health gains to account for equity considerations, such as concern for those with very short life expectancy. This paper reviews the empirical evidence in the published social sciences literature relevant to the following research question: do members of the public wish to place greater weight on a unit of health gain for end-of-life patients than on that for other types of patients? An electronic search of the Social Sciences Citation Index for articles published until October 2017 was conducted, with follow-up of references to obtain additional data. Hierarchical criteria were applied to select empirical studies reporting stated preferences relating to hypothetical health care priority setting contexts. Twenty-three studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review. Choice exercises were the most common method used to elicit preferences; other approaches included budget allocation, person trade-off and willingness-to-pay. Some studies found that observed preferences regarding end-of-life patients are influenced by information about the patients' ages. Overall, the evidence is mixed, with eight studies that report evidence consistent with a 'premium' for end-of-life treatments and 11 studies that do not. Methodological and design aspects that appear to influence the findings of end-of-life-related preference studies are identified and discussed. The findings of the UK studies have particular relevance for assessing the legitimacy of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's policy for appraising life-extending end-of-life treatments.


End of life; Health economics; Literature review; NICE; Priority setting; Public preferences; Societal preferences; Stated preferences

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