The concept of social welfare functions has been discussed in health economic literature, as it provides a way of examining the extent to which society is prepared to accept a trade-off between efficiency and equity. In this paper requirements for meaningful empirical estimates of the willingness to accept lower per capita health status in order to achieve greater equity are examined. Results from a pilot study aimed at testing the proposed measurement procedure are reported. They show that at least two thirds of the politicians who participated are prepared to accept a lower growth in per capita health in exchange for increased equity. Accordingly, we found a weak empirical support for the common health economic assumption that only total health benefit should guide the use of resources.