Background: Despite the mandate to examine the medical, ethical, and economic implications of the development and use of health technology, health technology assessment (HTA) reports often emphasize the epidemiologic and economic aspects, and omit ethical considerations. This study examines both whether and how ethical issues are incorporated into HTA.
Objectives: We aim to (i) review a set of Canadian HTA reports for ethics content, (ii) describe the strategies used to incorporate ethically relevant information into HTA, and (iii) determine the presence of implicit ethical issues in a sample of HTA reports.
Methods: Descriptive and qualitative content analysis of 608 HTA reports produced by six Canadian HTA agencies from January 1997 to December 2006.
Results: We found that (i) a minority (17 percent) of Canadian HTA reports addressed ethical issues, (ii) secondary research predominates while primary analysis is rare, (iii) implicit ethical issues are present in HTA reports that do not purport to address ethics.
Conclusions: Canadian HTA reports rarely explicitly, and then only superficially, address ethics, though implicit ethical issues abound.