“Love is letting go.”

Maria Pothoven from Arnhem, Netherlands has died after struggling with mental health for years following multiple sexual assaults. The 17-year-old, suffered from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia after being molested when she was 11 and 12, and raped by two men when she was 14 [1].

For years, she kept the violations secret, out of shame. It was only years later that her family learned what she had endured after her mother came across a cache of letters saying goodbye to her loved ones. Trapped in a pit of depression, despair, and shame, Noa had initially sought for euthanasia last year without her parent’s knowledge but was told that she was too young, and turned away [2].

“They think I’m too young to die,” she said.

She was instructed to complete a trauma treatment and wait until her brain was more developed. In her autobiography, titled “Winning or Learning, ” she discussed her battles with mental illness including suicide attempts.

Pothoven’s death

In an Instagram post, Pothoven wrote in her native Dutch:

“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 … 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 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 hospitalization, but my plan has been there for a long time and is not impulsive.”

Although a spokesperson for a member of the Dutch parliament reportedly said that Pothoven’s death occurred due to her refusal to eat, it is still unclear whether doctors ended up assisting in Noa’s death [3].

Reactions

Dutch lawmaker, Lisa Westerveld, who had visited Noa before her death, said she was struck by Pothoven’s strength.

“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.”

Her mother, Lisette blasted the mental-health system in the Netherlands, labeling it a ‘maddening’ bureaucratic mess.

In the Netherlands, Euthanasia is legal if performed under the strict rules of the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act. Dutch Law on Euthanasia.

While the practice was originally intended for those faced with the excruciatingly painful physical condition and terminal cancer, the law makes provision for those suffering from severe psychological pain. However, the requirement for those seeking euthanasia is that they have fully intact mental faculties while experiencing suffering that is ‘unbearable and hopeless.”

References:

  1. Dutch Doctors Allow 17-Year-Old Rape Victim to Take Her Own Life Due to ‘Unbearable’ Emotional Anguish“, CBN News. June, 2019.
  2. An anguished Dutch teenager, who was raped as a child, dies at home after ‘sad last post’“, Washington Post. June, 2019.
  3. 17-Year-Old Girl Chose to Die by Legal Suicide Because Her Life Had Become “Unbearable‘”, The Mind Unleashed. June, 2019.
  4. Current euthanasia law in the Netherlands“, Catholic Education.
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