A 17-year-old rape survivor in the Netherlands has reportedly died after opting to be euthanised. Days before her death, Noa Pothoven had written in an Instagram post that her suffering is “unbearable” and she is “drained” after years of battling and fighting. She added that she “breaths but no longer lives”.
The Netherlands legalised euthanasia, or physician-assisted suicide, in 2002, which is incidentally the same year Noa was born.
“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,” Pothoven wrote in Dutch on Saturday, reported Euro News. “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 breathe but no longer live,” she added.
Noa’s account on Instagram is private, and she has nearly 11,000 followers. In her bio, she described herself as a “mental illness warrior”.
She is also the author of an award-winning biography Winning or Learning, in which she details her struggle with sexual assault, depression, and anorexia. At the time of its release, her mother Lisette had appealed to social workers and those responsible for adolescent psychological care to read her book. According to Daily Beast, Lisette also criticised the state’s mental-health system, describing it as “maddening”.
According to a report in Daily Beast, Noa was allegedly sexually assaulted at a school party when she was 11 years old. She was allegedly raped by two men three years later.
On visiting Noa before her death, Dutch MP Lisa Westerveld had said she was impressed by her strength. “I will never forget her. We will continue her struggle,” Westerveld was quoted as saying by Euro News.
Dutch law on Euthanasia
Euthanasia, or the termination of life by a physician at a patient’s request, was legalised in the Netherlands in 2002. A patient can be euthanised if they are enduring “unbearable suffering” with no prospect of improvement. Those who are 16 and 17 years old do not need parental consent in principle, but their parents must be involved in the decision-making process.
Under the law — Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act — a patient must make a clear and unambiguous request to die. After the death, a review panel comprising a doctor, a jurist, and an ethics expert must confirm that all requirements were met.
In 2017, over 6,500 people died of euthanasia in the country. The leading cause for choosing this method voluntarily was reportedly untreatable cancer.
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