Why ethics should be part of health technology assessment

Int J Technol Assess Health Care. Fall 2008;24(4):423-9. doi: 10.1017/S0266462308080550.


From the heydays of HTA in the 1970s, it has been argued that ethics should be a part of HTA. Despite more than 30 years with repeated intentions, only few HTA reports include ethical analysis, and there is little agreement on methods for integrating ethics. This poses the question of why it is so important to integrate ethics in HTA? The article analyzes ten arguments for making ethics part of HTA. The validity of the arguments depend on what we mean by "integrating," "ethics," and "HTA." Some of the counterarguments explain why it has taken so long to integrate ethics in HTA and why there are so many ethical approaches. Nevertheless, some of the arguments for making ethics part of HTA appear to be compelling. Health care is a moral endeavor, and the vast potential of technology poses complex moral challenges. A thorough assessment of technology would include reflection on these moral aspects. Ethics provides such a moral reflection. Health technology is a way to improve the life of human individuals. This involves questions of what "the good life" is, and hence ethical issues. Trying to ignore such questions may inflict with the moral foundation of health care: to help people. Additionally, HTA is an evaluation, and as such also a reflection on values. Hence, there is a profound affinity between HTA and ethics. Accordingly, ethics cannot be "integrated" in HTA as ethics is already a constitutive part of HTA. However, ethics can be acknowledged and emphasized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Morals
  • Social Environment
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical / ethics*