A TRAUMATISED 17-year-old who was molested twice at children’s parties aged 11 and 12 and raped by two men aged 14 has been allowed to die.
Noa Pothoven was left with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anorexia by the three assaults and took the decision to end her life after her suffering became “unbearable”.
The teen, from Arnhem in the Netherlands, had begun refusing food, and died on Sunday in an “end-of-life clinic” bed that had been set up in her home.
Doctors had previously force-fed Noa to keep her alive, an experience she described as "humiliating" and "degrading".
According to reports in Holland, medics last week agreed to no longer attempt to feed the teenager.
She was instead provided with palliative care in a hospital bed set up in her living room.
Last year, Noa's parents told a Dutch newspaper that they were opposed to allowing their daughter to die – after the teenager was turned down by a euthanasia clinic.
It is not clear how the youngster's circumstances changed between then and last weekend.
Cases like Noa’s, where treatment is withheld, are sometimes referred to as “passive euthanasia”.
Under Dutch law, doctors can agree to euthanasia for a child as young as 12 as long as suffering, including psychiatric illnesses, can be medically defined as unbearable and with no end in sight.
Noa had previously been hospitalised multiple times by her anorexia and on one occasion suffered organ failure, forcing doctors to put her into a medically-induced coma.
'I BREATHE, BUT NO LONGER LIVE'
The 17-year-old said feelings of shame had prevented her from reporting the abuse she had suffered to the police until years after it had occurred.
She later penned an award-winning autobiography, called Winning or Learning, detailing her struggles with mental health, which included attempted suicides.
Explaining her decision to end her life to Dutch newspaper the Gelderland last year, Noa said: "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."
The day before she died, she posted a message to her followers on Instagram: “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 hospitalisation, but my plan has been there for a long time and is not impulsive.
“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.”
EUTHANASIA IN EUROPE
The debate about the right to die is taking place across Europe. Several high-profile cases have brought attention to the issue in the UK in recent years, but for now the practice of euthanasia remains illegal.
- In the UK, Tony Nicklinson, who was left with locked-in syndrome fter suffering a stroke in 2005, lost a bid to be allowed to end his life with the help of a doctor to the high court in 2012. He died weeks later at his home having begun refusing food and contracted pneumonia.
- In the Netherlands, the practice has been legal since 2002, but requires the approval of two physicians, the absence of reasonable alternatives, and that the patient’s suffering be unbearable and hopeless. It is currently legal for children as young as 12 to be euthanised in exceptional circumstances and with the consent of their parents. In 2016, prime minister Mark Rutte announced plans to grant healthy but older people the right to die if they feel their life has run its course.
- Liberal laws on euthanasia in Switzerland, which say only that the person assisted a suicide must not have "selfish motives", have made it the top destination in Europe for so-called suicide tourists. The person helping the suicide, however, must not play an 'active role'. For example, they can provide drugs for a lethal injection, but must not administer the drugs themselves.
- In the rest of Europe, physician-assisted death is legal in some form in Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Finland, and Austria.
- Active euthanasia: Deliberately intervening to end someone's life such as by injecting them with a large dose of sedatives.
- Passive euthanasia: Causing someone's death by withholding or withdrawing treatment that is necessary to maintain life.
- Assisted suicide: If a relative obtained strong sedatives, knowing that the person intended to kill themselves, the relative may be considered to be assisting suicide.
“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 I no longer live.”
She then asked her friends not to “convince me that this is not good, this is my decision and it is final. Love is letting go, in this case.”
Dutch minister Lisa Westerveld, who first made contact with Noa in December after her newspaper interview, visited the 17-year-old before she died.
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. "
Euthanasia is still illegal in the UK but is legal in parts of the US, Canada, and Belgium.
British patients wishing to die have travelled to Dignitas, non-profit society in Switzerland which provides assisted or accompanied suicide to its members, provided their wishes are signed off by independent doctors.
Since 1998, nearly 350 Britons have ended their lives at the Swiss clinic, according to the Campaign for Dignity in Dying.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost – to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes. And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet, it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun has launched the You're Not Alone campaign. To remind anyone facing a tough time, grappling with mental illness or feeling like there's nowhere left to turn, that there is hope.
To mark World Suicide Prevention Day, over the course of this week, we will tell you the stories of brave survivors, relatives left behind, heroic Good Samaritans – and share tips from mental health experts.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others. You're Not Alone.
For a list of support services available, please see the Where To Get Help box below.
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