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Why Do We Let Depressed Young Women Choose Euthanasia?

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Health

Why Do We Let Depressed Young Women Choose Euthanasia?


Once, we told stories of rescuing women in distress.

Now, we hand them a prescription for assisted suicide.

Two young women in the Netherlands, Jolanda Fun and Zoraya ter Beek, have recently done media interviews explaining their respective decisions to pursue euthanasia, despite being physically healthy.

Fun, who planned to end her life on her 34th birthday late last month, has struggled with depression for years. “Most of the time I just feel really sh—-,” she told The Times, a British newspaper, in an interview published April 14. “Sad, down, gloomy. People don’t see it, because that’s the mask I put on, and that’s what you learn to do in life.”

In the Netherlands, euthanasia has been legal since 2002. (The legislation passed in 2001, and went into effect the next year.) Fun started exploring the possibility two years ago, when a counselor mentioned it. For Fun, who has parents and a brother and a boyfriend, death still seemed like a better reality than staying alive.

“My father is sick, my mother is sick, my parents are fighting to stay alive, and I want to step out of life,” she told The Times. “That’s a bit strange. But even when I was seven, I asked my mother whether, if I jumped from a viaduct, I would be dead. I’ve been struggling with this my whole life.”

Meanwhile, ter Beek, 28, told The Free Press she plans to die by assisted suicide this month. Ter Beek, who is autistic and suffers from depression, has a boyfriend she loves and with whom she shares a home and cats. Her psychiatrist told her, “There’s nothing more we can do for you. It’s never [going to] get any better,” ter Beek told The Free Press, saying those words triggered her decision to end her life.

Ter Beek and Fun are not alone in their decisions. (So far, no media outlets have confirmed that either one has died.) In 2023, 138 Dutch people chose to end their lives because of psychiatric suffering, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais, which reported that represented a 20% increase from 2022. The trend is undeniably upward: The Netherlands had a mere two assisted suicide deaths for mental health reasons in 2010 and 68 in 2019, according to the Times.�

In general, euthanasia has grown in popularity in the Netherlands over the past two decades. More than 9,000 Dutch people chose euthanasia in 2023, reports El Pais, noting that euthanasia deaths made up more than 5% of all deaths in the Netherlands last year.

Canada—which initially legalized assisted suicide in 2016 for those with terminal illnesses and later for those with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition”—is similarly experiencing an upward trend. Over 13,000 Canadians died by assisted suicide in 2022, a 31% jump from the 2021 numbers. In 2017, the first full year assisted suicide was legal in Canada, 2,838 people chose to die that way.

Canada was slated to further follow in the Netherlands’ path and allow assisted suicide for mental health reasons this year, but due to concerns over straining the medical system, it has postponed that to March 17, 2027.

If you value life, you should be worried.

Already in the United States, 10 states and the District of Columbia allow assisted suicide under certain circumstances. If mental health continues to deteriorate in the U.S., as unfortunately seems likely, we could well face advocacy for allowing suicide for the mentally ill.

Of course, mental illness is a “real” illness, and its suffering can be acute.

But there is a reason we fight so hard against suicide, try to help and encourage and to provide medical assistance to Americans who struggle with depression and anxiety and other mental illnesses.

Not only do we love them, and want them to remain in our lives, but we also know that as long as someone is alive, there is hope—hope that he or she might heal, fully or partially, from mental illness and be able to live life more joyfully, less burdened by rapacious negative emotions. That belief is hard to hold when you are struggling with depression, making it all the more critical that the non-depressed in society vociferously advocate for the value of life.

Furthermore, plenty of those who have suffered from depression or other mental illnesses have, as their health has improved, become grateful they did not die by suicide. “I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life,” Olympian medalist Michael Phelps said in 2018 when discussing his history of depression.

In a 2023 Washington Post essay, Billy Lezra described a planned suicide attempt.

“I’d been drinking whiskey mixed with flat Coke all afternoon to work up the nerve to jump in front of the train, and I was drunk enough that my plan felt within reach. I was 23,” Lezra wrote.

“Two months earlier, my mother had tried to take her life, and I had interrupted her attempt. This experience, compounded by years of depression and addiction, made me long to stop feeling. It’s not that I wanted to die, exactly, it’s that I didn’t want to live.”

But then “a wiry woman with pink hair and a titanium lip ring” asked Lezra to take a photo. By the time the photo was taken, the train was gone—and now, seven years later, Lezra remains alive.

Lezra cannot recall the face of the pink-haired woman, but “what has stayed with me is a feeling of sharp, profound gratitude.”

Statistics back up Lezra’s experience. About 90% of suicide survivors will not ultimately die by suicide, according to the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. That suggests that many depressed people do, in fact, get better, at least to some extent.

And what does it say about us as a culture that we allow people to end their lives, that we publicly support it?

As Western civilization further becomes divorced from its Christian roots, it’s perhaps not surprising that there is renewed interest in suicide. The belief that God gives life and that it is not ours to take is less widely held. In modern thinking, where the individual becomes a free agent encouraged to pursue his own truth and happiness, obedience to the timing of a Creator is about as unfashionable a virtue as it gets, especially when such obedience includes chronic suffering.

“In the absence of Christianity, suicide and euthanasia become, perhaps, the ultimate and extreme (if mistaken) vindication of human choice and human dignity: My life is mine, and I can end it when I want to. In this way, individual liberty is reduced to a kind of death cult,” wrote John Daniel Davidson in “Pagan America.”

How bleak.

In addition to embracing individualism in our time, we constantly talk of kindness—but it is often a limp kindness, never deployed in tough times. Sometimes, the truest kindness is to fight for someone when she can no longer fight for herself.

Laws often more shape, than reflect, cultures. If the Netherlands had not legalized assisted suicide, perhaps both Fun and ter Beek would be trying new doctors, new treatments, and other ways to ease their very real suffering.

Instead, their government’s laws are telling them their lives may well not be worth living.





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