Can We Help Zoraya?

Can We Help Zoraya? April 16, 2024


Zoraya ter Beek, a young Dutch woman suffering from depression, is scheduled to be euthanized because her psychiatrist told her that nothing more could be done to help her. A very secular profession in a very secular country has given up on mental healthcare. Could religion hold the answers to Zoraya’s problems? A growing body of research says, “YES!”




Partial, Edited Transcript

Hey, everyone! This is John Gravino. Welcome to SOUL SCIENCE, episode 12. And today we have a public service announcement. Euthanasia is not mental healthcare. 

Dutch Woman Chooses to Die

A very sad story that’s  just been all over the newspapers coming from the Netherlands. You see the  very pretty young lady up on the screen here.  “Zoraya ter Beek,” if I’m pronouncing her name correctly . . .  28 years old, expects to be euthanized in early May. The title of this article that I got from The Free Press: “I’m 28 and I’m Scheduled to Die.” A very sad story. Let me read to you some highlights from  the article at The Free Press. And you can go see the article yourself. I’ve got the link up on the screen here. 

“There’s nothing more we can do for you.”—Psychiatrist

Okay. This is about Zoraya.  

“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.’”

Just heartbreaking. And you know. . . And this is what people have really been commenting on.  The hopelessness coming from the psychiatrist. “There’s nothing more we can do for you.” Just absolutely terrible and heartbreaking. And, you know, if you’ve been following SOUL SCIENCE, you know that I certainly disagree with that and that I certainly believe that Christianity has a better answer for Zoraya and people who are in a similar situation—what you see on the screen here: “GO TO CHURCH!”

Research on Religion and Mental Health

That sounds dogmatic. I know it sounds dogmatic. But if you’ve been following SOUL SCIENCE, you know that this is actually a research-based answer.  You know I’m not a priest. And I’m not giving a priest’s answer. This is actually the topic that I covered in episode #1 of SOUL SCIENCE.  And the title of that podcast was, “Should Doctors Prescribe Religion for Mental Health?”

I got that title, not from a Catholic priest, not from any kind of a priest or minister at all. The title I stole from an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health by the name of Dr. Tyler VanderWeele. It was a question that he raised quite provocatively when he gave a lecture over the  summer at the National Institute for Health. And he was talking about his research at Harvard University which established this connection between Church attendance and improved mental health. He said the research is so strong, it raises the question whether we should start prescribing religion for mental health. I would say, in the case of Zoraya, well, your your psychiatrist has given up, you know? Why not give it [religion] a shot, right? . . . [SEE THE SHOW FOR MORE CONTENT!]

About John Gravino
John Gravino is the author of The Immoral Landscape of the New Atheism, which was the topic of a health and spirituality seminar at Duke Medical School. He continues to explore the intersection of health and religion and the other big questions of life right here at Patheos. You can read more about the author here.
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