The fact that HTA is a value-laden process is recognized in the literature. This is one of the reasons for promoting a better integration of ethics in HTA processes. Although what is meant by value-judgment (VJ) and how it can be used in HTA is not clear for some authors; others have proposed the elicitation of implicit VJs, to make them more explicit, as one way for clarifying the role ethics may play in HTA. In order to clarify what a VJ is, a conceptual analysis is needed to distinguish it from a factual-judgment and see how they diverge on certain aspects and converge on others.
The distinction between VJs and factual-judgments was debated in the fifties. At the core of the philosophy of language was a distinction between factual-scientific assertions about facts, considered objective, and VJs on what is right/wrong-good/bad, considered subjective. In speech-act theory these distinctions were treated as two different operations: assertive and evaluative. A conceptual analysis of VJs, considering them as specific speech-acts, was used for clarifying/deciphering the role of VJs in HTA.
VJs are intrinsically embedded in decision-making since they are the reasons justifying decisions. This is why implicit VJs can be identified at every decision-step in the HTA process. Assessment is usually considered objective while appraisal seems subjective. Since VJs are entrenched in the decisions taken throughout the assessment process, the results are not completely objective. Ethical analysis also distinguishes two types of VJs, those based on normative criteria and those based on various degrees of value actualization. Furthermore, since evaluation requires criteria based on a rational process, VJs are not totally subjective.
Elicitation of VJs in HTA is one way of integrating ethics in HTA and offers decision-makers a more thorough picture of the ethical issues involved in their decision.