Historically, palliative care has been developed for cancer patients and is not yet generally available for patients suffering from chronic life-limiting illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). To examine whether COPD patients experience similar or worse disease burden in comparison with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients, we compared the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) scores of severe COPD patients with those of advanced NSCLC patients. We also formally updated previous evidence in this area provided by a landmark study published by Gore et al. in 2000. In updating this previous evidence, we addressed the methodological limitations of this study and a number of confounding variables. Eighty-two GOLD IV COPD patients and 19 Stage IIIb or IV NSCLC patients completed generic and disease-specific HRQOL questionnaires. We used an individual patient data meta-analysis to integrate the new and existing evidence (total n=201). Finally, to enhance between-group comparability, we performed a sensitivity analysis using a subgroup of patients with a similar degree of "terminality," namely those who had died within one year after study entry. Considerable differences in HRQOL were found for physical functioning, social functioning, mental health, general health perceptions, dyspnea, activities of daily living, and depression. All differences favored the NSCLC patients. The sensitivity analysis, using only terminal NSCLC and COPD patients, confirmed these findings. In conclusion, end-stage COPD patients experience poor HRQOL comparable to or worse than that of advanced NSCLC patients. We discuss these findings in the light of the notion that these COPD patients may have a similar need for palliative care.