Objectives: Assessment of ethical aspects of a technology is an important component of health technology assessment (HTA). Nevertheless, how the implementation of ethical assessment in HTA is to be organized and adapted to specific regulatory and organizational settings remains unclear. The objective of this study is to present a framework for systematic identification of ethical aspects of health technologies. Furthermore, the process of developing and adapting the framework to a specific setting is described.
Methods: The framework was developed based on an inventory of existing approaches to identification and assessment of ethical aspects in HTA. In addition, the framework was adapted to the Swedish legal and organizational healthcare context, to the role of the HTA agency and to the use of non-ethicists. The framework was reviewed by a group of ethicists working in the field as well as by a wider set of interested parties including industry, interest groups, and other potential users.
Results: The framework consists of twelve items with sub-questions, short explanations, and a concluding overall summary. The items are organized into four different themes: the effects of the intervention on health, its compatibility with ethical norms, structural factors with ethical implications, and long term ethical consequences of using the intervention.
Conclusions: In this study, a framework for identifying ethical aspects of health technologies is proposed. The general considerations and methodological approach to this venture will hopefully inspire and present important insights to organizations in other national contexts interested in making similar adaptations.