In order for a doctor to write a script for Nembutal, he/ she must have a good reason. This means that the doctor must review one’s medical records (even if the person is not sick). This is why the process is a medical one, despite the fact that under Swiss law anyone can help another person to die.
There is, of course, some leeway in terms of the doctor who prescribes the Nembutal. Different organisations operate with different doctors. All are individuals. While there are always limits, a helpful doctor will understand a person’s reasons for wanting to die and take very seriously their decision to do so.
Interestingly, in an attempted shift away from the medical model, Dignitas was reported in the media in 2008 to be trialing the use of exit bags and helium gas, precisely because this method did not require a doctor. The aesthetic considerations of a exit bags, however, meant that they soon returned to using Nembutal. Doctors remain an essential part of the Dignitas VAD process.
In conclusion, as long as the Swiss groups use Nembutal, they will continue to need doctors. This on-going tension between ‘medical paternalism’ (the role of the medical profession in