Intended for healthcare professionals

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

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

I read with interest Melanie Newman’s paper on the story of Noa Pothoven. The story gives life to the debate about whether physician-assisted euthanasia should be legalized and on what legal options it should be permissible.

In my opinion it was a reasonable ethical practice to deny Noa Pothoven’s claim to have a legal option to physician-assisted euthanasia, since her request for active euthanasia was unsound to be a moral right as her life was given and not chosen. Making that choice denies this human condition and nulls out Pothoven’s autonomy, as the choice would have annihilated her. It was therefore a good decision to withhold her option of euthanasia, but how could she then have escaped from her suffering?

Taking into consideration that she no longer saw life with dignity and worthwhileness, we should have focused our efforts on changing her perception of continued life rather than considering her option for assisted euthanasia. Since no fully rational human being wants to die unless the surroundings threaten the dignity of the continuing existence of the person, Pothoven’s existential concerns could have been valid, but we must realize that they were due to her conception of society, outlook on life and the social environment. Society, medical doctors and especially the loved ones should have put considerable efforts into changing the social attitudes by closeness and affection to give her a recognition of still being valuable as it would have given her a worthy life. This alternative option may not have relieved her suffering completely, but I have argued that euthanasia isn’t a moral right.

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 June 2019
Alaa Daoud
Medical student
Faculty of Health and Medical science, Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark
Blegdamsvej 3B, 2200 København N, Denmark