Objective: To determine the prevalence of depression and anxiety in terminally ill patients pursuing aid in dying from physicians. Design: Cross sectional survey. Setting: State of Oregon, USA. Participants: 58 Oregonians, most terminally ill with cancer or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, who had either requested aid in dying from a physician or contacted an aid in dying advocacy organisation. Main outcome measures: Diagnosis of depression or anxiety according to the hospital anxiety and depression scale and the structured clinical interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Results: 15 study participants met "caseness" criteria for depression, and 13 met criteria for anxiety. 42 patients died by the end of the study; 18 received a prescription for a lethal drug under the Death with Dignity Act, and nine died by lethal ingestion. 15 participants who received a prescription for a lethal drug did not meet criteria for depression; three did. All three depressed participants died by legal ingestion within two months of the research interview. Conclusion: Although most terminally ill Oregonians who receive aid in dying do not have depressive disorders, the current practice of the Death with Dignity Act may fail to protect some patients whose choices are influenced by depression from receiving a prescription for a lethal drug.
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