Netherlands approves euthanasia for Zorya ter Beek, 29-year-old girl suffering from chronic depression

zorya ter beek The Netherlands received final approval for assisted dying last week after a three-and-a-half-year process under a law passed in 2002. His case has sparked controversy, as assisted death remains uncommon for people suffering from psychiatric illnesses in the Netherlands. Although their number is increasing. Two cases of psychiatric distress were reported in 2010; In 2023, 138: 1.5% of 9,068 deaths by euthanasia.

Ter Beek said it was understandable that cases like his – and the broader question of whether assisted dying should be legal – were controversial. “People assume that when you have a mental illness you can’t think clearly, which is insulting,” he told the British newspaper. Guardian, “I understand the fears of some disabled people about assisted death and the worry that they will be pressured to die. “But this law has been in place in the Netherlands for more than 20 years. There are very strict rules here and it is very safe.”,

According to Dutch law, to be eligible for assisted death, a person must experience “Unbearable pain with no possibility of improvement.”, You must be fully informed and competent to make such a decision. The girl says that she fulfills all the conditions. She suffers from chronic depression, anxiety, trauma, and an unspecified personality disorder. He has also been diagnosed with autism. When she met her partner, she thought the safe environment he provided would cure her. “But I continued to self-harm and feel suicidal.”

Ter Beek decided to begin intensive treatment, which included more than 30 sessions of talking therapy, medication, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). «In therapy I learned a lot about myself and about coping mechanisms, but it didn’t solve the main problems. At the beginning of treatment, you start feeling hopeful. I thought it would get better. But the longer the treatment goes on, you start losing hope.”,

A decade later, “nothing” was left in the way of treatment. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with the way I was living now.” He had thought about taking his own life, but the violent death by suicide of a school friend and its impact on the girl’s family discouraged him.

“I completed electroconvulsive therapy in August 2020 and, after a period of accepting that there was no further cure, I requested assisted death in December of the same year. This is a long and complex process. It’s not like you ask for an assisted death on Monday and you die on Friday,” he said. Guardian, «I was on the waiting list for evaluation for a long time, because there are very few doctors who are willing to participate in assisted death for people with mental suffering. You must then be assessed by a team, have a second opinion on your eligibility, and their decision reviewed by another independent doctor.

“In three and a half years, I have never doubted my decision, I have felt guilty: I have a partner, family, friends and I am not oblivious to their pain. And I felt fear. But I am fully committed to moving forward.

«All the doctors say to me: “Are you sure? You can stop at any time. “My partner remained in the room to support me during most of the conversation, but at times he was asked to leave so the doctor could be sure I was speaking openly.”

When the article about his case – which, according to ter Beek, contained numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations – was published in April, his inbox “exploded”. Most of the comments came from outside the Netherlands, mostly from the United States.

“People said: ‘Don’t do it, your life is precious.’ I already know this. Others said they have a cure, such as a special diet or medication. Some people told me to seek Jesus or Allah, otherwise I would burn in hell. It was a terrible storm. “I couldn’t stand so much negativity.” He deleted all his social media accounts.

After meeting with his medical team, Ter Beek is expected to die in the coming weeks. “I’m relieved. “It’s been a very long battle.”, On the appointed day, the medical team will go to ter Beek’s home. «They’ll start by giving me sedatives, and they won’t give me heart-stopping drugs until I’m in a coma. For me it would be like falling asleep. My partner will be there, but I’ve told him that if he needs to leave the room before the moment of death that’s OK,” he explains.

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