NO DOUBT you were as shocked as I was by the news this week that Noa Pothoven, a 17-year-old girl so overwhelmed by despair and depression, chose to end her life by refusing food and drink.
At first it was thought that she had been “legally euthanised” in a clinic in her native Netherlands.
8 Noa Pothoven, a 17-year-old girl so overwhelmed by despair and depression, chose to end her life by refusing food and drinkCredit: Central European News
But perhaps the most shocking part of the story is that, in fact, she died at her parents’ home after they agreed to not force her to eat.
But really, whether she died in a clinic by euthanasia, assisted suicide, or at home by her own hand, what’s the difference? This young woman was so full of despair she decided there was nothing left to live for.
And her parents agreed. She had been trying to die for a long time. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in the Netherlands.
Noa asked the Levenseinde end-of-life clinic in The Hague two years ago if she could be considered for euthanasia or assisted suicide but they — rightly — refused.
She told De Gelderlander newspaper in December: “They consider that I am too young to die. They think I should finish my trauma treatment and that my brain must first be fully grown.
That lasts until your 21st birthday. It’s broken me, because I can’t wait that long.” No one, surely, could read those words without agreeing that yes, she was too young to die. Right?
Most of us have enough life experience to know that, no matter how bad things are, or seem to be, dark clouds can hang around — but they do shift.
Things change. Hopelessness gives way to hope. And dark often eventually becomes light. But Noa didn’t believe it.
There is no doubt at all that her young life had been incredibly difficultKarren BradySun on Sunday Columnist
There is no doubt at all that her young life had been incredibly difficult. She’d had extensive treatment for depression and anorexia, and had tried to kill herself several times.
She had been sexually assaulted at the age of 11 and raped at 14. She was so traumatised she didn’t want to live any more and, after repeated hospital stays, decided to stop treatment earlier this year.
In what she referred to as a “sorrowful last post” on Instagram, Noa said she had “stopped eating and drinking for a while now, and after many discussions and evaluations, it has been decided to let me go, because my suffering is unbearable”.
A hospital bed was set up in her parents’ home and last week she refused all food and fluids after her parents and doctors reportedly agreed not to force-feed her.
It is pretty much impossible for most of us to understand quite how desperate, resigned, despairing this woman’s parents must have been to have facilitated their daughter’s voluntary death.
They must all have felt sure that there was no alternative. But it’s also hard to resist the urge to challenge that notion.
There are so many examples of people — from Maya Angelou to Malala Yousafzai to JK Rowling — who have overcome adversity to make a huge success of their lives.
Without diminishing Noa’s suffering, I do know there were things that felt to me like a crisis at 17 that I barely now recallKarren BradySun on Sunday Columnist
I know many people who have overcome very difficult, challenging and dark times as teenagers who have gone on to create fulfilling and happy relationships and live rewarding and successful lives.
I think it’s fair to say that, as a teenager, it’s impossible to imagine the future. It’s all too easy to be so mired in the difficulties of the present that you feel you will be stuck there for ever.
Without in any way diminishing Noa’s suffering, I do know there were things that felt to me like a crisis at 17 that I barely now recall.
I would take the view that it’s possible to get over even the most difficult challenges — even if it involves temporary defeat, sometimes total failure, it is how you react that sets your path.
The big question that this story raises is, should we be allowed to choose to die? Ultimately, I think the answer to that is yes, we should. But does anyone know enough about living at the age of 17 to choose to die? I don’t think so.
8 Noa with her mother, who according to her has was always there for herCredit: Central European News
8 In her last Instagram post Noa outlined her plan for suicide, saying that within a ‘maximum of 10 days’ she would die. The 17-year-old said it was ‘fine this way’ and asked followers not to convince her otherwiseCredit: Central European News
Give girls a sporting chance
IT IS striking that this week a new Lancet study confirmed what many of us already know: Self-harm among young women and girls is rising at an “alarming” rate.
What on earth is happening to our young people? Our young women in particular. What is the cause of this epidemic of self-loathing, self-harm, self-destruction?
8 Self-harm among young women and girls is rising at an ‘alarming’ rate – my heart goes out to them and their parentsCredit: Getty – Contributor
When I was a teenager I had problems, sure, but nothing that would have driven me to harm myself.
But so many parents now have to deal with their children hurting themselves as a daily reality – and my heart goes out to them. I don’t have the solution. But I do have a few theories about how to help kids thrive.
Sport is really, really good for kids. It builds self-esteem and gives them another focus than themselves, their bodies, and whether they measure up to the people they follow on Instagram.
Social media can be a force for good. But it can make young people feel really bad too. Help your kids to find other outlets, hobbies and passions.
Talk to your kids about everything. And listen. Be un-shockable. My daughter – for better or worse! – still tells me everything. No subjects are taboo and they never have been or will be.
If you accept your child for who they are, you will help them to be their authentic selves, rather than trying to be someone they are not. That is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
Mahut’s son warmed my heart
I CONFESS to a tear in my eye watching the moment when Nicolas Mahut’s son rushed on court to console his father about losing to Leonardo Mayer at the French Open.
8 The touching moment Nicolas Mahut’s son rushed on the court to hug his father reminds us that relationships matter more than winningCredit: AFP or licensors
Their hug was so heartfelt, and incredibly sweet and touching.
It was a great reminder that relationships matter so much more than winning ever will.Net loss for Paul
DID you hear the one about the woman who sold her husband’s £45,000 football memorabilia for a fiver after seeing him cheating?
Shelly Cohen, 41, from Warrington, Cheshire, was sick of husband Paul putting his love of the beautiful game before their relationship.
8 Shelly Cohen sold her husband Paul’s football memorabilia, worth £45,000, for just a fiverCredit: Paul and Shelly Cohen
When a friend texted her to say she’d seen her husband at a Manchester City match with another woman, that was it.
She gathered together his prized memorabilia collection, which dates back 60 years, and listed it for sale on her husband’s OnBuy account.
Then she flogged his £45,000 memorabilia collection for a fiver. All I can say is: OUCH!It’s win and loos at Buckingham Palace
SEEING all the state banquets this week has reminded me about my own visits to Buckingham Palace.
I’ve been to white-tie events there as well as an intimate lunch with the Queen.
8 The state banquets have reminded me about my 2014 visit to Buckingham Palace to receive my CBECredit: Jon Bond -The Sun
I’ve also had dinner at Winfield House, which belongs to the American ambassador, in the same room that Trump had dinner.
And they really are momentous occasions. I mean, just getting ready is fairly momentous.
Although for most of them, despite the best-laid plans, I ended up rushing home from work and throwing something on.
Some things I remember, in no particular order – after dinner, I really wanted to go to the toilet. But no one is allowed to leave until the Queen does, so I had to just hold on, and on, and on.ROYAL CONVERSATION
I practised my curtsey before I went. That’s because when I was given my CBE by Prince William I was given so many instructions about how many steps to take to the left, right, and backwards that when the time came to curtsey I ended up doing a SQUAT!
So I thought a YouTube tutorial might be a good idea. When our last course arrived – a plate with a bowl plus a cloth – I didn’t know what it was.
Luckily, I was sitting next to the delightful Lord Chamberlain, Earl William Peel, who told me that the bowl was to wash fruit and the cloth was to dry it.
Lastly, the Queen really is the world’s most professional conversationalist.
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She knew about the Olympic Stadium and football, and talked about both of them as though she was really interested.
Despite all the pomp and ceremony, I was made to feel absolutely comfortable. But I definitely had more than a moment of thinking, “Pinch me, I’m at Buckingham Palace!”
There is no doubt that Donald Trump’s trip was a great success. But my main take home from everything I saw was, what I wouldn’t give to have Melania’s wardrobe!
8 After Prince William gave me my award, Instead of a curtsey I wound up doing a squatCredit: PA:Press Association
Teenager Noa Pothoven has legally ended her life after suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by years of horrific child sex abuse