NETHERLANDS: Physically Healthy 29-Year-Old Woman Approved For Medically Assisted Suicide Because Of Her Depression

Natasha Biase

A physically healthy 29-year-old woman in the Netherlands has sparked concern after being approved for medical assistance in dying (MAID). Zoraya ter Beek, who has borderline personality disorder and depression, sought euthanasia after a psychiatrist told her there was nothing more they could do for her and that her mental health “is never going to get any better.”

Although approval for MAID is unusual for those suffering from mental illnesses in the Netherlands, ter Beek, who has struggled with chronic depression, anxiety, trauma, unspecified personality disorder, and autism since she was younger, was given the go-ahead due to “unbearable mental suffering.”

Speaking with The Guardian, ter Beek admitted that she has been trying to treat her mental illness and overcome suicidal ideation with the help of her boyfriend, therapy, medication, and dozens of electroconvulsive therapy sessions, otherwise known as electric shock therapy, for around a decade with no success.

“In therapy, I learned a lot about myself and coping mechanisms, but it didn’t fix the main issues. At the beginning of treatment, you start out hopeful. I thought I’d get better. But the longer the treatment goes on, you start losing hope,” she explained, adding that there was “nothing left” she could do to combat her mental health concerns.

“I finished ECT in August 2020, and after a period of accepting there was no more treatment, I applied for assisted dying in December that year. It’s a long and complicated process. It’s not like you ask for assisted dying on a Monday, and you’re dead by Friday,” continued ter Beek, who was approved for MAID after waiting over three years.

“I was on a waiting list for assessment for a long time because there are so few doctors willing to be involved in assisted dying for people with mental suffering. Then you have to be assessed by a team, have a second opinion about your eligibility, and their decision has to be reviewed by another independent doctor.”

Although she admits to feeling some guilt about how her loved ones will feel when she’s gone, ter Beek admitted that she has never hesitated about her decision and is “determined to go through with it.”

News of ter Beek’s approval for physician-assisted death sparked backlash on social media from many who expressed that they felt euthanasia had gone too far.

“This news fills me with immense disquiet. Dutch doctors will kill a 29-year-old woman with no terminal illness on grounds of mental suffering. Another profound change in the evolution of what ‘doctor’ entails – & in the definition of ‘doing no harm,’” wrote palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke.

“I am of the controversial opinion that we should help people struggling with mental illness instead of euthanizing them,” wrote a user by the handle @EudaimoniaEsq.

Others expressed their confusion about how MAID differs from suicide:

This is not the first time a young Dutch woman has been approved for euthanasia.

As previously reported by The Publica, a 28-year-old woman suffering from “chronic fatigue syndrome” died by assisted suicide earlier this year after spending several years seeking approval from physicians.

In 2022, Lauren Hoeve started sharing her journey to medically assisted death on her blog Brain Fog, where she expressed that her doctor was not able to euthanize her due to her “psychological conditions,” including autism and ADHD. 

Although she was put on a waitlist to speak with a euthanasia specialist, one year later, several doctors concluded she was “mentally competent” to make the decision to be euthanized.

“This will be my last tweet. Thanks for the love, everyone. I’m going to rest a bit more and be with my loved ones. Enjoy a last morbid meme from me,” wrote Hoeve, whose X account has been made private since her passing.

Despite claims that it’s uncommon for those with psychiatric issues to obtain approval for MAID, last year, cases involving mental illness accounted for nearly 2% of all physician-assisted deaths for a total of 138 compared to only two cases in 2010.

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