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quality of life


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A measure of a person’s wellbeing that is relevant in two ways in medical ethics. (1) The experience, burden, and effects of disease as opposed to its duration are often invoked in debates about abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and the withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment. The criteria for determining another person’s wellbeing are complex and contested. Some commentators have sought to distinguish quality of life judgments. (2) The formal evaluation of losses and gains is employed to determine who will benefit most from a treatment and, on this basis, who should receive priority where resources are scarce. In such cases a calculation of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) is made, rather than a simpler estimate of how long a successfully treated patient can expect to live. Each expected year of full health is scored 1, each expected year with various degrees of illness or disability less than 1, and death 0. Research priorities are often made on the basis of a related metric, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), which seeks to minimize the burden of disease. Both metrics have been criticized for discriminating against those with prior medical conditions, which lower their baseline score, and the elderly, whose longevity is short. See also need.

(1) The experience, burden, and effects of disease as opposed to its duration are often invoked in debates about abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and the withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment. The criteria for determining another person’s wellbeing are complex and contested. Some commentators have sought to distinguish quality of life judgments. (2) The formal evaluation of losses and gains is employed to determine who will benefit most from a treatment and, on this basis, who should receive priority where resources are scarce. In such cases a calculation of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) is made, rather than a simpler estimate of how long a successfully treated patient can expect to live. Each expected year of full health is scored 1, each expected year with various degrees of illness or disability less than 1, and death 0. Research priorities are often made on the basis of a related metric, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), which seeks to minimize the burden of disease. Both metrics have been criticized for discriminating against those with prior medical conditions, which lower their baseline score, and the elderly, whose longevity is short.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.


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