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Feature Medicine and the Media

Noa Pothoven wasn’t euthanised—but it was what she wanted

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 12 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l4142
  1. Melanie Newman, freelance journalist
  1. London, UK
  1. melanienewman999{at}

The story of a Dutch teenager who was wrongly reported as having died by euthanasia has reignited debates on assisted dying in the UK. Melanie Newman reports

As news broke of the death of a 17 year old mentally ill rape victim in the Netherlands, a media storm was inevitable. The Daily Mail, the Daily Beast, Euronews, and the Independent were among news outlets that rushed out stories on a teenager who had been “legally euthanised.” The story spread rapidly around the globe: the teenager’s name, Noa Pothoven, was trending in Italy on 5 June before a Politico reporter, Naomi O’Leary, debunked the story on Twitter.1

Pothoven, who last year published an autobiography describing multiple sexual assaults,2 had depression, anorexia, and other mental health problems for which she had been repeatedly admitted to hospital. She had sought euthanasia from a clinic in the Hague when she was 16, but this was refused because her parents had not been informed, said a Dutch newspaper.3

Too young to die

“They think I’m too young to die,” …

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