Update: An earlier version of this article said that Noa Pothoven’s death was due to euthanasia. It is now unclear to what extent doctors assisted in her suicide. Pothoven starved herself to death after her parents and the government agreed not to intervene in her pursuit of euthanasia.
(TMU) — A 17-year-old Dutch girl who was raped and molested as a child chose to die at her home last week after saying that her suffering had become “unbearable.”
Noa Pothoven from Arnhem, Netherlands, died last Sunday in a hospital bed in her living room after she starved herself.
Noa had long been open about her harsh struggle surviving sexual assault and rape at a young age, which she detailed in an acclaimed autobiography titled Winning or Learning, where she also discussed her battles with mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anorexia. She also discussed her battles openly on social media.
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Jaja mensen, goed nieuws: de uitgever wil met mij in zee! Ze zei dat ze heel enthousiast zijn en ze mijn schrijfstijl indrukwekkend vonden. Binnenkort een (telefoon)gesprek om verder te overleggen en bulletpoints te maken waar we nog mee bezig gaan. Ik hoop dat hij in oktober te koop gaat zijn… 💖
In a “sad last post” to Instagram last Saturday, Pothoven wrote in her native Dutch:
“It’s finished. I have not really been alive for so long, I survive, and not even that… 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 deliberated for quite a while whether or not I should share this, but decided to do it anyway. 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.”
In her book, Pothoven wrote that she was sexually assaulted at children’s parties at the ages of 11 and 12 before she was raped by two men when she was 14.
Her mother Lisette, has said that reading her daughter’s book should be a requirement for social workers and those dealing with the psychological care of adolescents. She has also blasted the mental-health system in the Netherlands as a “maddening” bureaucratic mess.
In 2001, the Dutch legalized euthanasia under the strict provisions of the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act, the same year the teen was born. In 2017, 6,585 people in the Netherlands chose to end their lives through euthanasia, according to a Dutch Regional Euthanasia Review committee report.
While the practice was primarily intended for those faced with terminal cancer and excruciatingly painful physical conditions, the law makes an allowance for those suffering severe psychological pain to seek euthanasia as well. However, the requirement is that those seeking to terminate their lives have fully intact mental faculties while experiencing suffering that is “unbearable and hopeless.”
Pothoven told Dutch newspaper de Gelderlander that she had contacted the Life End Clinic in The Hague without telling her family, explaining:
“Out of fear and shame, I relive the fear, that pain every day. 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.”
Lisa Westerveld, a member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands, visited Pothoven in the days prior to her death, according to Euronews. She said:
“It was nice to see her again. It is also very unreal … Noa was incredibly strong and very open. I will never forget her. We will continue her struggle.”
Pothoven spent her last hours bidding farewell to her heartbroken loved ones. She urged her online followers not to try to convince her to live on, explaining:
“This is my decision and it is final … Love is letting go, in this case.”