Confusion Over Death of Dutch Teen: No, It was Not Euthanasia

Despite international coverage, Dutch media reports that Noa Pothoven was denied euthanasia and died by suicide.

3 min read
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The story of Noa Pothoven, a 17-year-old Dutch girl, dying at her home after being granted the right to euthanasia in Netherlands spread across the internet like wildfire, with media outlets from Australia to the UK to India reporting on her death.

However, local Dutch reports suggest this was a case of misreporting by English media, and Pothoven died by suicide instead.

Conflicting Reports

Amidst the storm, Politico Europe correspondent Naomi O’Leary posted a series of tweets saying that Pothoven died by suicide instead, and the spread of wrong facts was “infuriating.”

O’Leary added that the “misinformation” was the result of badly translated English reports as Dutch media did not ever report she died of euthanasia.

She tweeted that she spoke to Paul Bolwerk, a Dutch reporter who was covering the story for their local newspaper DeGelderlander, who confirmed that although Pothoven did ask for euthanasia she was refused.

It would have been an enormous deal in the Netherlands if a 17-year-old really had euthanasia. It’s really easy to check.
Naomi O’Leary tweeted

What Really Happened?

Bolwerk told O’Leary in Politico that the teen was depressed and decided to stop all treatments, including drinking and eating, and that is what caused her to die.

She stayed at home and decided not to eat and drink, and it was very hard to accept that for everyone.
Paul Bolwerk, reporter with local Dutch paper DeGelderlander

On Sunday, 2 June, DeGelderlander reported that Pathoven had passed away.

The teenager had been attacked and sexually assaulted on three separate occasions since the age of 11, which made her suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anorexia.

She Did Not Die of Euthanasia: Noa’s Friends

While media outlets like Politico, The Cut and The Guardian have offered up clarifications over the ‘euthanasia’ case, the fake news has already spread far and wide.

The Guardian added that there was “no evidence that her death was assisted,” despite international media reportage.

In fact, The Hague’s Levenseinde or end-of-life clinic issued a clarification (including one in English) to “put an end to incorrect reporting (in foreign media in particular) about her death, we refer to the statement made by friends of Noa this afternoon: Noa Pothoven did not die of euthanasia. To stop her suffering, she has stopped eating and drinking.”

However, a quick search for the key word ‘euthanise’ immediately brings up Pothoven’s case.

Despite international coverage, Dutch media reports that Noa Pothoven was denied euthanasia and died by suicide.

‘It’s Finished’: Pothoven on Instagram

Pathoven details the trauma and depression post her sexual assaults in her award-wining autobiography, ‘Winning or Learning’. She had even kept the assaults a secret because of ‘shame’ and ‘fear’.

In a 2018 interview with DeGelderlander, Pothoven said that she did request euthanasia, but was denied because she was too young.

Recently, she had informed her 10,000 Instagram followers about her decision to die. In her native language, she wrote, “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.” She also asked them to not convince her to live.

‘I breathe, but I no longer live.’

However, as O’Leary clarified, deciding to die by suicide and assisted death or dying by euthanasia are not the same thing.

(If you or your love one needs help, reach out to this list of curated specialists and helpline numbers.)

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Topics:  Social Media   Suicide   Euthanasia 

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