A teen rape victim in the Netherlands died over the weekend after her parents and doctors decided not to force-feed the girl, who had ceased all eating and drinking for days.
Previous reports suggested that Noa Pothoven, 17, had been legally euthanized, but such claims appear to be the result of skewed translations of Dutch reports. Pothoven, who battled anorexia during her life as well as PTSD stemming from childhood sexual assault, died in a hospital bed that was set up for her in her family’s Arnhem home, Politico Europe reports, citing a Sunday report from the Gelderlander, a Dutch outlet. She reportedly refused to eat or drink in the days leading up to her death, and her parents and doctors agreed that they would not force her to accept treatment.
This does not meet the country’s criteria of euthanasia; the government defines the process as being performed by a physician, who “[administers] a fatal dose of a suitable drug,” according to the national website. In the case of assisted suicide, the drugs are supplied by the doctor, but the patient delivers the dose themselves.
While Pothoven did previously go to a clinic and request to be euthanized — without the consent of her parents — that request was denied, according to Politico Europe.
Pothoven was first sexually assaulted at the age of 11, and was raped by two men a few years later when she was 14, BBC News reports. She wrote about those experiences in her diary-turned-autobiography, the title of which translates to “Winning or Learning.”
But she struggled to recover. Pothoven spoke to the Gelderlander in December about her euthanasia request the year before, the Guardian reports.
“They consider that I am too young to die,” she told the outlet. “They think I should finish my trauma treatment and that my brain must first be fully grown. That lasts until your 21st birthday. It’s broken me, because I can’t wait that long.”
Paul Bolwerk, a reporter at the Gelderlander, told Politico Europe that after Pothoven’s euthanasia request, her parents continued to seek treatment for her, including electroconvulsive therapy, but that particular therapy was denied due to her age. She had also attempted to end her own life on several occasions in the months before her death, he said.
“She got depressed more and more, and said, ‘Well, ok, now I press on the button. Now I say I will stop with all treatments.’ And that was very stressful for everyone, including the parents, the doctors, the psychiatrists,” Bolwerk said. “So she stayed at home and decided not to eat and drink, and it was very hard to accept that for everyone.”
The Levenseinde, the clinic that Pothoven previously approached, also issued a statement from Pothoven’s friends reiterating that she “did not die of euthanasia,” according to the Guardian.
“To stop her suffering, she stopped eating and drinking,” their statement reads.
Earlier reports stating that Pothoven had been legally euthanized sparked furious debate on social media, even seemingly drawing a response from Pope Francis, who took to Twitter on Wednesday to describe euthanasia and assisted suicide as “a defeat for all.”
“We are called never to abandon those who are suffering, never giving up but caring and loving to restore hope,” he wrote.
Pothoven addressed her decision in a “sad last post” on Instagram which has since been deleted, according to Politico Europe.
“I’ll get straight to the point: within a maximum of 10 days I will die,” it reads, in part. “After years of fighting and struggling it is over. I have stopped eating and drinking for a while now, and after many conversations and reviews it has been decided that I will be let go because my suffering is unbearable. It is finished.”
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