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The Oregon Department of Human Services has issued its ninth, virtually meaningless report on assisted suicide. I say virtually meaningless because it’s statistical analysis depends almost entirely on death doctor self-reporting. Little noted in the media, which regurgitates these statistics as if they were empirically valid, there is no independent oversight by the state over assisted suicide, the DHS does not even have the power or budget to investigate potential abuses, and indeed, as the news release that accompanied the statistical report acknowledged, “The role of the DHS is that of a steward of data about the use of the law. This is a law, not a DHS program, and our only legal role is to report accurate aggregate data about the use of the law. It is critical that we have accurate data so that informed ethical, legal, and medical decisions can be made.”

So there you have it. DHS bureaucrats are merely stewards of data, not overseers. The DHS merely compiles statistics and only spot checks the accuracy of the data they receive. Not only that, but after the annual reports are published, the DHS destroys the data from which it was compiled, which prevents outside researchers from even verifying the DHS’s analysis. Thus, there is no way to know whether these reports are accurate, or instead, whether they are more a matter of garbage in-garbage out.

For a cogent critique of the many failings of “oversite” system in Oregon, see “The Oregon Experience,” a fact sheet compiled by theInternational Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

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