Woman's Controversial Death Wish Is Finally Granted

Netherlands' Zoraya ter Beek, 29, gets the OK for an assisted death due to mental health struggles
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2024 11:03 AM CDT
After Years of Mental Struggles, Woman Earns the Right to Die
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Pornpak Khunatorn)

For nearly four years, Zoraya ter Beek has been patiently biding her time, going through the laborious process in the Netherlands to get the green light for an assisted suicide due to what she describes as overwhelming mental suffering. Last week, ter Beek finally saw her request granted, clearing the way for her to end her life in what's expected to be just a few weeks, reports the Guardian. The controversial case has roiled Europe as people debate whether individuals with mental health issues should be able to take advantage of assisted dying.

  • Rules: The Dutch law on the matter—which People notes took effect in 2002, making it the first nation to legalize euthanasia—says that, to be a candidate for assisted dying, a person must have "unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement." They also have to be deemed mentally competent to make such a decision.

  • Ter Beek's status: The 29-year-old Dutch woman is said to suffer from chronic depression, anxiety, trauma, and an unspecified personality disorder. She has also been diagnosed with autism. She's undergone a decade of treatments—including traditional talk therapy, meds, and dozens of electroconvulsive therapy sessions—to no avail. "I knew I couldn't cope with the way I live now," ter Beek says. She applied for a spot on the assisted-dying list in December 2020.
  • The process: It's a drawn-out one to get approved, with assessments, second opinions, and more assessments. Yet ter Beek says she's "never hesitated" from her decision. "People think that when you're mentally ill, you can't think straight, which is insulting," she tells the Guardian.
  • Backlash: An article about her situation circulated last month, and she says she was bombarded with a "s---storm" of messages, mostly from outside the Netherlands. Some experts are also wary. "I saw the Dutch euthanasia practice evolve [over the years] from death being a last resort to death being a default option," one healthcare ethics professor who served on a euthanasia review board for a decade tells the Free Press.
  • Stats: Indeed, the Guardian notes that in 2010, there were just two assisted deaths in the Netherlands due to psychiatric suffering; last year, there were 138, out of a total 9,068 euthanasia deaths.
  • What's next? Ter Beek says she plans to die in the home she shares with her partner, a 40-year-old IT programmer. A medical team will first administer a sedative, then the drug that will stop her heart. "It will be like falling asleep," she tells the Guardian. "My partner will be there, but I've told him it's OK if he needs to leave the room before the moment of death." She tells the Free Press she'll be cremated and that her boyfriend will scatter her ashes in "a nice spot in the woods" they picked out together.
(More assisted suicide stories.)

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