Guidelines for appropriate care: the importance of empirical normative analysis

Health Care Anal. 2001;9(1):77-99. doi: 10.1023/a:1011307112091.


The Royal Dutch Medical Association recently completed a research project aimed at investigating how guidelines for 'appropriate medical care' should be construed. The project took as a starting point that explicit attention should be given to ethical and political considerations in addition to data about costs and effectiveness. In the project, two research groups set out to design guidelines and cost-effectiveness analyses (CEAs) for two circumscribed medical areas (angina pectoris and major depression). Our third group was responsible for the normative analysis. We undertook an explorative, qualitative pilot study of the normative considerations that played a role in constructing the guidelines and CEAs, and simultaneously interviewed specialists about the normative considerations that guided their diagnostic and treatment decisions. Explicating normative considerations, we argue, is important democratically: the issues at stake should not be left to decision analysts and guideline developers to decide. Moreover, it is a necessary condition for a successful implementation of such tools: those who draw upon these tools will only accept them when they can recognize themselves in the considerations implied. Empirical normative analysis, we argue, is a crucial tool in developing guidelines for appropriate medical care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angina Pectoris / therapy
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Decision Trees
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Empirical Research*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Health Care Rationing / standards
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Pilot Projects
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Primary Health Care / economics*
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Social Values
  • Value of Life