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Autistic 28-year-old Dutch woman scheduled to die by euthanasia

by | May 17, 2024

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Update. This story was posted on April 4. The Guardian reported that last week Zoraya Ter Bek “received the final approval last week for assisted dying under a law passed in the country in 2002.”

Rupa Subramanya reported for the Free Press on April 1 that Zoraya ter Beek, an Autistic Dutch woman (28) who has depression, is scheduled to die by euthanasia in early May. Subramanya reports:

Ter Beek, who lives in a little Dutch town near the German border, once had ambitions to become a psychiatrist, but she was never able to muster the will to finish school or start a career. She said she was hobbled by her depression and autism and borderline personality disorder. Now 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.

She recalled her psychiatrist telling her that they had tried everything, that “there’s nothing more we can do for you. It’s never gonna get any better.”


At that point, she said, she decided to die. “I was always very clear that if it doesn’t get better, I can’t do this anymore.”

Subramanya outlines one of the weaknesses with the Dutch euthanasia law by stating:

When she’s dead, a euthanasia review committee will evaluate her death to ensure the doctor adhered to “due care criteria,” and the Dutch government will (almost certainly) declare that the life of Zoraya ter Beek was lawfully ended.

Notice how the euthanasia review committee will examine her death after she has died, not before she has died.

Subramanya reports ter Beek as stating

“I’m a little afraid of dying, because it’s the ultimate unknown,” she said. “We don’t really know what’s next—or is there nothing? That’s the scary part.”

The story of Zoraya ter Beek has some similarities to the story of the 27-year-old autistic Calgary woman who was approved for euthanasia but whose father is attempting to prevent the death through the courts.

Subramanya then writes

Typically, when we think of people who are considering assisted suicide, we think of people facing terminal illness. But this new group is suffering from other syndromes—depression or anxiety exacerbated, they say, by economic uncertainty, the climatesocial media, and a seemingly limitless array of fears and disappointments.

Professor Theo Boer was a member of the Netherlands Euthanasia Review Committee for 10 years. Subramanya interviewed Boer and writes:

“I entered the review committee in 2005, and I was there until 2014,” Boer told me. “In those years, I saw the Dutch euthanasia practice evolve from death being a last resort to death being a default option.” He ultimately resigned.

Boer had in mind people like Zoraya ter Beek—who, critics argue, have been tacitly encouraged to kill themselves by laws that destigmatize suicide, a social media culture that glamorizes it, and radical right-to-die activists who insist we should be free to kill ourselves whenever our lives are “complete.”

Subramanya concludes

They have fallen victim, in critics’ eyes, to a kind of suicide contagion.

Statistics suggest these critics have a point.

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to make euthanasia legal. Since then, the number of people who increasingly choose to die is startling.

Categories: Euthanasia