Most of the research in palliative medicine is of a descriptive nature. Clinical practice is based upon clinical experience rather than upon research. The level of appropriate research reduces the chance for improvement of palliative care. Ethical and methodological obstacles seem to be prominent in palliative care research. The Declaration of Helsinki is generally accepted as an ethical code of practice for clinical research and it also applies to palliative care. In order to obtain reliable data, standardisation of data collection is needed. Improvement of quality of life is the primary endpoint in most studies in palliative care. The existing validated quality of life instruments such as the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) quality of life (QLQ)-C30 can be used until the patient is too sick to complete the questionnaire. New approaches are needed and must be developed for the dying patients. Palliative care research needs proper funding; specific programmes supporting research on a European level are needed. The European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) is capable of conducting and coordinating collaborative research in palliative care on a European level.