Wednesday 16 October 2019

Award-winning teen writer Noa Pothoven chooses to die due to ‘unbearable suffering’

A 17-year-old girl from Arnhem who suffered from years of PTSD, depression and anorexia after being sexually assaulted as a child has died.

Noa Pothoven, the author of the award-winning book Winnen of Leren (‘winning or learning’) wrote in a post on Instagram – which has now been deleted – that she was ‘being let go because my suffering is unbearable.’

According to the AD, her last days were spent in a hospital bed in her family’s living room, saying goodbye to her near and dear, and her sister announced her death on Sunday.

Although was widely reported around the world that she died through euthanasia – following an unconfirmed report from the Central European News wire service – the Levenseindekliniek released a statement ‘made by friends of Noa’ on Wednesday saying that she did not die from euthanasia, but stopped eating and drinking.

In her Instagram post, the young woman had said that she would stop eating, and expected to die within 10 days. It is understood that this may have meant that she would not be fed against her wishes.

She had, however, investigated the possibilities of euthanasia through the Levenseindekliniek in Den Haag last year, according to The Gelderlander local newspaper, and then been rejected.

The young woman had written critically about her traumatising experiences of isolation cells in psychiatric care institutions, and praised GroenLinks MP Lisa Westerveld when she took up the subject of inadequate youth care in the Netherlands.

After suicide attempts, last year she had said that she would try trauma therapy a final time and her mother, Lisette, told The Gelderlander that she was choosing ‘the road towards death’ while her family wanted her to choose life.

A spokeswoman for Westerveld, who was one of the people invited to say goodbye to Ms Pothoven before her death, said: ‘as far as we know, she died because she didn’t eat any more,’ adding that the girl has not yet been buried.


The euthanasia clinic that the young woman reportedly consulted last year initially would not confirm or deny if she was a patient to DutchNews.nl. Elke Swart, spokeswoman for the Levenseindkliniek in The Hague, said: ‘There are very few young adults in euthanasia clinics, and it’s even rarer to see them for psychiatric reasons. Euthanasia of someone who is 60 is very different to that of someone who is 16. But we follow the law, which says someone must be in unbearable suffering with no other alternative.’

Although euthanasia has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002, the number of cases dropped for the first time in a decade last year. Three cases have been referred to the public prosecution service for not following strict rules, and some commentators have said doctors are more wary after more controversial circumstances involving dementia (2.4% of the 6,126 euthanasia cases last year) and psychiatric forms of suffering (1%).

The vast majority of euthanasia procedures, however, involve someone with a terminal sickness, and 66% last year related to untreatable cancer.

A journalist from Politico Europe has slammed media outlets from around the world for failing to check the story before publishing.

Updated to include a statement from the Levenseindekliniek and Westerveld’s tweet

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