Healthy young Dutch woman dies by euthanasia

Media reports have confirmed that healthy young Dutch woman Zoraya ter Beek died last week after being approved for euthanasia.

Zoraya had just turned 29 and didn’t have a terminal illness. The law in the Netherlands doesn’t require her to be dying in order to qualify for euthanasia. Instead, she had depression and autism and borderline personality disorder and was told by her psychiatrist that “there is nothing more we can do for you. It’s never gonna get any better”.

Zoraya, before her death, said that she was tired of living, despite, she said, being in love with her boyfriend, a 40 year old IT programmer, and living in a nice house with their two cats.

Responding to Zoraya’s story, Stef Groenewoud, a health care ethicist at Theological University Kampen in the Netherlands, said

“I'm seeing euthanasia as some sort of acceptable option brought to the table by physicians, by psychiatrists, when previously it was the ultimate last resort.

“I see the phenomenon, especially in people with psychiatric diseases, and especially young people with psychiatric disorders, where the health care professional seems to give up on them more easily than before”.

Psychiatrists from the UK have responded to news of Zoraya’s death:

“The story of Zoraya ter Beek should certainly elicit our compassion. For such a young person to feel their mental suffering has been enough to make them wish for euthanasia is tragic. As psychiatrists, we are inclined to ask questions about the surety of her diagnoses and about the details of her treatment. A deeper instinct, obliterated once assisted suicide and euthanasia are legalised and normalised, says there is always something to be done: there is always hope. Euthanasia offers the opposite: nothing further to be done; no hope, only death”.

The group has raised the wider implications of Zoraya’s story :

“But ter Beek’s story has wider implications. For instance, it shows how the eligibility criteria for assisted suicide and euthanasia expand. In the Netherlands, as in other countries, the criteria now include not solely those with the capacity to make decisions, but those who lack capacity too; not solely physical suffering but mental (which can include being “tired of life”); not solely adults, but also children”.

We join many others in mourning Zoraya’s death by euthanasia.