29-year-old Zoraya was physically healthy. Doctors helped her end her life.

Content warning: This post deals with the topic of assisted dying and suicide.

Zoraya ter Beek struggled with her mental health ever since she was a little girl.  

Chronic depression, anxiety and trauma were constants in her childhood and adolescent years. She endured extreme bullying,and eventually began dressing in goth clothing in an attempt to scare her tormentors into leaving her alone. 

At 21, she was diagnosed with autism, a diagnosis she struggled with. So much so, that by the time she was 22, she wore a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ tag around her neck. 

Although ter Beek was physically healthy, she told The Free Press that she’d been hoping her life would end long before she wore the tag. 

Watch: Some thoughts on teen mental health. Article continues after the video. 

Video via Mommy.

When she turned 18, ter Beek moved in with her boyfriend, Stein, who was ten years older than her. Her parents disapproved, prompting an estrangement that included her three sisters, as well as her parents. 


Ter Beek’s partner urged her to seek help to regain control of her mental health, and she did. Ter Beek said she tried everything. She regularly saw a psychiatrist and even tried electroconvulsive therapy that involves electric currents jolting the brain. She endured this process 33 times. 

But, nothing changed. And after her last treatment in 2020, ter Beek says her psychiatrist told her there was nothing more they could do. "It’s never going to get any better," her psychiatrist reportedly said. 

"After we heard that, we all kind of knew what that meant," ter Beek told TFP. 

By December that year, ter Beek had applied to the Netherlands’ Euthanasia Expertise Centre (ECT). 

"I was always very clear: if it doesn’t get better, I can’t do this. I knew I couldn’t cope with the way I live now," she said at the time. 

Ter Beek told The Guardian she’d contemplated taking her own life, but was deterred by the violent suicide of a childhood friend. She saw how the girl’s family was impacted, and she didn’t want to hurt her own family. 

The formal process involved when applying to the ECT gave ter Beek comfort.

"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," she told The Guardian. 

Even being assessed takes time. A long time, as there aren't many doctors willing to facilitate assisted dying when the reason relates to mental illness, rather than a physical condition. 


After the initial assessment, a second internal opinion is required, followed by a third review by an independent doctor. 

In May, ter Beek was approved for physician-assisted dying on the grounds of unbearable mental suffering. The decision came three and a half years after she first applied, and was approved under a law passed in the Netherlands in 2022 that granted eligibility to people experiencing "unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement".

"In the three and a half years this has taken, I’ve never hesitated about my decision," she told The Guardian. 

That doesn’t mean she didn’t feel guilt though. Or fear. She wasn’t blind to her family and partner’s pain. But she was determined to continue. 

"Every doctor at every stage says: ‘Are you sure? You can stop at any point.’ My partner has been in the room for most conversations in order to support me, but several times he has been asked to leave so the doctors can be sure I’m speaking freely," she told The Guardian. 

Because ter Beek is physically healthy, her case caused global controversy, and debate raged around whether or not people with psychiatric illnesses should be eligible. 

Ter Beek told The Guardian she could understand why assisted dying was controversial, especially in relation to mental illness, but that the reasons for the controversy were misguided. 


"People think that when you’re mentally ill, you can’t think straight, which is insulting," she said. "I understand the fears that some disabled people have about assisted dying, and worries about people being under pressure to die. But in the Netherlands, we’ve had this law for more than 20 years. There are really strict rules, and it’s really safe."

Despite her own determination, ter Beek believed current strict rules were necessary to protect people who were in "psychosis or depressed and not thinking straight".

"You don’t know if somebody, maybe with the right help, could have chosen to live."

For ter Beek though, her decision was final, and made with the support of her partner, who she requested be by her side at the time, though she reportedly told him it was okay if he needed to leave the room before the moment of death. 


On May 22, ter Beek's friend, Martin, announced her death via social media. A medical team came to her home, gave her a sedative, and waited until she was in a coma before administering drugs to stop her heart. 

She was 29 years old. 

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your GP or health professional. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. In an emergency call 000. 

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