For several days, several foreign newspapers have presented the death of Noa Pothoven, 17, as the consequences of “legal euthanasia”. In fact, the young woman, a victim of rape and severe depression, refused to eat and hydrate until her death.
The story of Noah Pothoven has traveled around the world and caused many reactions. The 17-year-old Dutch teenager was sexually assaulted and raped three times at age 11, 12 and 14. She died last Sunday. Soon, the international media seized this tragic destiny. “Faced with a life she could not stand, Noa, 17, chose euthanasia,” titled Paris Match on Wednesday, before rectifying. Other French-language and Anglo-Saxon news sites have published a similar title. The American conservative channel Fox News has talked about this news to discuss “legal euthanasia” practiced in the Netherlands.
Yet, according to the Dutch press, the truth is quite different. According to local media, but also according to Politico Europe journalist Naomi O’Leary, the young woman died after she stopped feeding and hydrated, in agreement with her family and doctors. It would be more of a suicide than a so-called “legal euthanasia” practiced by a “specialized clinic in the end of life”, as evoked by the press in the four corners of the globe. No official cause of death was reported by the authorities.
Noa Pothoven had been sexually assaulted and raped three times. After having kept this terrible secret for her, she had told these abuses in a book where she reported on her uneasiness and the trauma suffered. She was suffering from severe depression and eating disorders that led to a dozen hospitalizations in a few years. In an interview with the De Gelderlander newspaper in December, she said she had gone to a clinic in The Hague a year ago, unbeknownst to her parents, to find out if she could be the subject of euthanasia or assisted suicide. This request had been denied.
“They think I’m too young to die,” she told the newspaper. “They think I should finish my trauma treatment and my brain needs to be fully developed first. It must last until my 21st birthday. It broke me because I can not wait so long. ” Since then, Noa Pothoven has been forcibly placed in psychiatric hospitals several times, and has made several suicide attempts. Last week, the young woman moved to her parents’ home and refused any treatment, but also to eat and hydrate. Previously, her parents had applied for electric shock treatments. But these had been refused. In the face of Noa Pothoven’s desire to die, and after years of unsuccessful treatment, her parents and doctors agreed not to force-feed her. But no action by the medical staff was implemented to accelerate or slow down the death of the young woman. In a last post on Instagram – deleted since – Noa Pothoven reported “deep suffering” and expressed her willingness to no longer drink or feed.
In a statement, the medical network that manages euthanasia in the Netherlands denounced a “runaway” international press, and said that the young woman is not “dead of euthanasia.” “To stop her suffering, she stopped eating and drinking,” continues the text. Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been allowed under certain conditions in the Netherlands since 2002. The law requires that the sufferings of the patient be unbearable, with no prospect of improvement, and the request must be made voluntarily, and not under the influence a third. In 2017, the latest year for which figures are available, 4% of all deaths in the Netherlands – 6091 people – were due to euthanasia. More than 80% had incurable cancer, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease or lung disease. Only 1% had a psychiatric disorder, and only one was under 18 years old.
According to numerous sources in British newspapers, the international media had been informed of this story by the Central European News (CEN) newswire, which specializes in providing unpublished and unusual news to English-language media. CEN had already been accused of providing unreliable information.