Bursting Bubbles? QALYs and Discrimination

Utilitas 31 (2):191-202 (2019)
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The use of Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) in healthcare allocation has been criticized as discriminatory against people with disabilities. This article considers a response to this criticism from Nick Beckstead and Toby Ord. They say that even if QALYs are discriminatory, attempting to avoid discrimination – when coupled with other central principles that an allocation system should favour – sometimes leads to irrationality in the form of cyclic preferences. I suggest that while Beckstead and Ord have identified a problem, it is a misdiagnosis to lay it at the feet of an anti-discrimination principle. The problem in fact comes from a basic tension between respecting reasonable patient preferences and other ways of ranking treatment options. As such, adopting a QALY system does not solve the problem they identify.

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Ben Davies
University of Sheffield


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