"It is amazing that the state reports provide any useful information at all. The Oregon and Washington laws create a closed system, in which all reporting is by the doctor who prescribes a lethal overdose of barbiturates to his patient. No one may question the truthfulness of this account. The same doctor, often working with the suicide advocacy group 'Compassion & Choices,' certifies the patient as likely to die in six months, decides whether there should be a psychological evaluation to check for depression, and selects the doctor who will give a second opinion on these matters.
"Not surprisingly, all doctors self-report that they are doing a fine job of following the law, that the patient is competent to request a lethal overdose, and that there is almost never a need for psychological evaluation. This doctor may even sign the death certificate, though generally he is not present at the time of death. Oregon’s law allows the doctor to falsify the certificate, reporting the patient’s underlying illness as the cause of death. Washington’s law requires him to do so.
"This system creates the misleading impression that the doctors are uncannily accurate in predicting that these patients would have died in six months. In fact, some patients taking the drugs had received them in previous years, showing they had not been that close to death when diagnosed. And some who received the drugs but did not take them have lived much longer than six months before dying of natural causes. Because most patients die from the drugs within six months, we can only speculate as to how long they would have lived."