A 17 year old Dutch teenager passed away this week.
Her last post on Instagram read:
“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 have not really been alive for so long, I survive, and not even that. I breathe but no longer live. 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.
Love is letting go, in this case.”
Now, after her death, everyone is weighing in their opinions – some criticising the Dutch for their leniency towards euthanasia, the Dutch government saying Pothaven did not ‘euthanise’ herself.
So much so, even the Pope shot a tweet:
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are a defeat for all. We are called never to abandon those who are suffering, never giving up but caring and loving to restore hope.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 5, 2019
Before, we delve into the debate of ‘who killed Pothaven’, it is appropriate we explain who she is.
Pothaven, born in 2001 was a Dutch teenager. At the age of 11, she was sexually assaulted at a school party. Three years later, she was raped by two men.
At the time she did not speak of the incidents owing to fear and shame. Eventually, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and eating disorders.
After that she never quite recovered – she turned her teenage diary into an autobiography, Winnen of Leren (Win or Learn. The book, which attempted to help similar victims reach out for timely help, also shed a light on the lack of psychological help and mental health facilities available for children and teenagers in the Netherlands.
While she continued doing that, her own health deteriorated. She applied for euthanasia without the knowledge of her parents at The End of Life Clinic, however was not granted one because she was too young and presumed curable.
Note: Euthanasia by a doctor is legal under strict conditions in the Netherlands.
Pothoven, then decided to ‘stop eating and drinking’ – her family respected her decision. On the second day of June, Pothaven passed away. Her death happened at home, in a hospital bed set up in her home’s living room.
Now comes our question of who killed Noa Pothaven?
Was it herself – it was her own decision, so no one is to blame?
Did her parents and other family members assist in her suicide?
Did the country fail her, so she could not save her?
Did the sexual offenders who committed the heinous crime kill her?
Or, did we, as a society kill her – because of our inability to protect her?