It is often claimed by campaigners for 'assisted dying' that research has shown that in the US State of Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide was legalised in 1997, vulnerable people are not being put at risk.
The research in question was published in 2007 in the Journal of Medical Ethics and can be read in full here.
Two senior palliative care physicians in Britain, Professor Ilora Finlay and Professor Rob George, have now published a critique calling into question the validity of this research.
They argue that the methodology on which the research was based is flawed and that the conclusions drawn by the researchers do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny. They question, for example, the claim that physician-assisted suicide is not putting at risk the elderly or persons suffering from clinical depression.
Drawing on official data released by the Oregon Public Health Division, they show that the greatest resort to PAS in Oregon is among persons aged between 65 and 84 and, drawing on independent research published in 2008, that some people suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression have been issued with lethal drugs by doctors in Oregon with which to end their lives.
Notwithstanding the recent critical analysis of the 2007 research, the latter continues to be cited by campaigners for a change in British law as evidence that legalisation of 'assisted dying' does not put vulnerable people at risk.