Noa Pothoven, a 17-year-old Dutch girl, was legally euthanized after multiple attempts to quell her post-traumatic stress from being raped. Last year, Pothoven made headlines when she released her book, “Winning or Learning,” where she revealed she had been molested and raped as a child, and that the trauma not only resulted in PTSD, but also depression and anorexia.
“I relive the fear, that pain every day,” the teen said in her book. “Always scared, always on my guard. And to this day my body still feels dirty. My house has been broken into, my body, that can never be undone.”
In the Netherlands, euthanasia is legal for anyone above the age of 12, and you only need parental consent if you’re under the age of 16. The decision has to be made without the influence of drugs or alcohol, and two independent doctors must agree that the patient’s suffering is considered unbearable with no chance of improvement.
Pothoven had been assaulted since the age of 11, and was raped at the age of 14. She approached a euthanasia clinic without her parents’ knowledge last December. In an interview with the Gelderlander, Pothoven said that she had asked if euthanasia was an option for her, but they adamantly said no.
“They think I’m too young to die,” she said. “They think I should complete the trauma treatment and that my brain must first be fully grown. That lasts until you are 21. I’m devastated, because I can’t wait that long anymore.”
Lisette, Noa’s mom, admitted that losing her daughter was a legitimate fear of hers, but that she didn’t believe her daughter actually wanted to die.
“Noa doesn’t want this life anymore. We are so afraid that the door of life will close to her. She chooses, as she now stands, for the road to death. We are at odds with each other. We, her parents, want her to choose the path of life. Noa really doesn’t want to die at all. She only longs for peace.”
Pothoven’s parents found out about their daughter’s initial visit to the clinic through letters the teen had left in a folder in her room.
“I was in shock,” Noa’s mom, Lisette, said. “We didn’t get it. Noa is sweet, beautiful, smart, social and always cheerful. How is it possible that she wants to die? We have never received a real answer. We just heard that life was no longer meaningful.”
Noa admitted she wanted peace, but to her, that meant death. Because she didn’t need to have her parents’ permission, Pothoven decided to go through with euthanasia. A week ago she wrote on social media that she had made the decision to end her life.
“I deliberated for quite a while whether or not I should share this, but decided to do it anyway,” she wrote on Instagram. “Maybe this comes as a surprise to some, given my posts about hospitalization, but my plan has been there for a long time and is not impulsive. I will get straight to the point: within a maximum of 10 days I will die. After years of battling and fighting, I am drained. I have quit eating and drinking for a while now, and after many discussions and evaluations, it was decided to let me go because my suffering is unbearable. I’m still breathing, but I’m not alive any more […] don’t try convince me that this is not good, this is my decision and it is final.”
Pothoven passed away in her home on Sunday, June 2nd, as per her wish. Lisa Westerveld, a member of the House of Representatives in the Netherlands, spoke of Pothoven highly, and reportedly visited her towards the end of her life.
“It was nice to see her again. It is also very unreal,” Westerveld said. “Noa was incredibly strong and very open. I will never forget her. We will continue her struggle.”
It’s an interesting case, as what transpired was fully legal, but the ethics behind it are a little strange. Should anyone, let alone a teenager, be allowed to choose euthanasia?