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July 2, 1997

The Problem of Quality of Life in Medicine

Author Affiliations

From the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) Unité 292, Hôpital de Bicêtre, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France (Dr Leplège); and the Department of General Practice, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom (Dr Hunt).

JAMA. 1997;278(1):47-50. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550010061041

The use of the term "quality of life" to encompass the values and perceptions of patients has created doubt, confusion, and misunderstanding among practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and patients. The principal reason for this state of affairs is that a clear conceptual basis for quality-of-life measures is lacking. In this article, the current rationale for quality-of-life measurement in the health field is examined, and the drawbacks of the various models being used are outlined. Our suggestion is that quality of life as an outcome could be explored more clearly (ie, defined) if quality of life were replaced with a more easily handled notion such as that of "subjective health status." However, the idea that the patient's perspective is as valid as that of the clinician when it comes to evaluating outcomes has a great deal of legitimacy and should certainly not be abandoned.