Quality of life (QoL) assessment is crucial for the evaluation of palliative care outcome. In this paper, our methodological approach was based on the creation of summary measures. Fifty-eight Palliative Care Units (PCUs) in Italy participated in the study. Each PCU randomly selected patients to be 'evaluated' among the consecutively 'registered' patients. At baseline (first visit) and each week the patient was asked to fill in a QoL questionnaire, the Therapy Impact Questionnaire (TIQ). Short-survivors (<7 days) were not included in the QoL study. The random sample of patients (n = 601) was highly representative of the general patient population cared for by the PCUs in Italy. The median survival was 37.9 days. We collected 3546 TIQ, 71.4 % completed by the patients. A Summary Measure Outcome score was calculated for 409 patients (81% of the patients included in the QoL study). The results of this national study showed that cooperative clinical research in palliative care is possible and QoL measures can be used to assess the outcome.