Her story isn’t about euthanasia. It’s about failing mental-health systems

Before her death on June 2, Dutch teenager Noa Pothoven was most famous in her home country for her autobiography, “Winnen of Leren” (“Winning or Learning”), and its insightful critiques of the mental-health system. She’s better known now for the supposed method of her passing: The dubious Central European News claimed that Pothoven’s death was due to “legal euthanasia” and the tragic story quickly went viral, prompting a renewed debate about the right to die and whether it ought to be available to someone so young.

That debate is important but misplaced: Pothoven’s story is not about euthanasia. It is about a 17-year-old girl who never found the help she needed to survive the trauma of two separate sexual assaults, and about the mental-health system that fails many other people like her. Though it took time for the record to be corrected, at this point, we know the end of Pothoven’s story well. In 2018, she approached the Levenseindekliniek, an end-of-life clinic in The Hague, requesting euthanasia. Her request was denied on the basis that she was too young. This June, she died in a hospital bed in her living room after she stopped eating and drinking.

Ames Tribute Op-Ed