When Truth is the First Casualty

Recently, multiple world wide media outlets went into paroxysms of outrage at the news that a 17year old Dutch girl Noa Pothoven (pictured above) suffering from chronic depression had been euthanized summarily without consultation with her parents. Here was proof if ever it was needed that the Right to Die movement had indeed reached the nadir of that much publicized slippery slope, and was it any surprise that the locus of outrage was in Holland!!

The Daily Mail got the ball rolling in early June with a sensationalist report:The Daily Star Online wrote that Pothoven died " at an "end-of-life clinic" in Holland." The Daily Mail Online said "a 17-year-old girl who was raped as a young child and felt she could no longer go on living has been legally euthanized at home with the help of an 'end-of-life clinic'." Several U.S. and international outlets — including the Daily Beast, the Washington Post and the New York Post — reported that Pothoven died via euthanasia.The Daily Star Online wrote that Pothoven died " at an "end-of-life clinic" in Holland. Here it was:  the nightmare scenario for those supporting MAID: an underage, highly vulnerable minor, suffering not from any type of terminal physical illness, but "merely" from depression had been euthanized barely with a "by your leave" of her parents. What could be more outrageous? It was a sensationalist version of an all-too heart-rending story that spread at viral speed across the globe, triggering an emotive debate over the ethics of euthanasia and raising recriminating questions over how someone so young could be put to death for something as "treatable" as depression.

Of course, MAID's opponents are never ones to allow the facts to get in front of a good story. In fact, the young woman had been repeatedly raped starting as young as age 11. She had been suffering from severe depression for years and had even written a courageous, award winning book about her travails Winning or Learning. She had written about her desire to discontinue life. She had indeed visited an End of Life clinic a year earlier, but had not been accepted. Instead, she had announced her intention to refuse nutrition and hydration, a 10 day process legal in every state in America and familiarly known by its acronym VSED "Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking". She had done so, not at a clinic, but at her home, in her bed, in the company of her loving and heart broken but understanding and comforting parents.

Pothoven had not been euthanized, her family made clear, in a statement in the Gelderlander: "Noa had chosen not to eat and drink anymore. We would like to emphasize that this was the cause of her death. She died in our presence last Sunday. We kindly ask everyone to respect our privacy so we as a family can mourn."

The Levenseinde clinic, the Royal Dutch Medical Association and the Dutch health minister also denied that Pothoven died by euthanasia.

But of course, the truth be damned and the privacy and suffering of Noa and her loving parents would be ignored so the anti-MAID narrative could have its day in headlines. The truth matters little to those who would deny the individual's right to determine their own end of life chapter. Anti-MAID zealots believe they know better what everyone should or should not do and in their blind fury at any who would assert an individual's right to self determine, they will latch onto fabricated stories, falsified data, and slippery slope hobgoblins. One thing they will not do is investigate the 50+ years of collective statistical summaries showing how successfully MAID had worked without a single case of abuse or coercion or error. With the anti-MAID partisans, truth will always be the first casualty.

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Edmund Tiryakian

Ed Tiryakian, J.D., MBA, founded Dying Right NC in 2015 and is its Executive Director. He previously worked in international banking in Asia before retiring to his native NC.He believes End of Life issues are one of society’s most pressing challenges as we all live longer and the medicalization of the dying process continues to conflict with the individual’s right to choose his or her end.