Legally, she didn’t have to tell her parents what she was about to do. It is legal in Holland at age 12 but needs parental consent up to age 16. Noa Pothoven was 17 and wanted an assisted suicide. She had already met with two independent doctors that confirmed her suffering was indeed unbearable and without hope of recovery. She had suffered sexual abuse and rape since age 11. Those events had thrown her into dealing with depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome and anorexia. She wrote an award-winning autobiography titled “Winning and Learning” where she disclosed the abuse for the first time, too ashamed to have spoken about it earlier. In a final Instagram post she wrote, “After years of fighting and fighting, it is finished. Love is letting go.”
So much pain. I can’t begin to imagine what she went through all those years. There are things that happen in life that require professional counseling and guidance. The goal of that kind of treatment is to get to a place where life is bearable. There should be wise counsel that helps people cope with the unbearable (Gal. 6:2). In Noa’s case she was adrift without a lifeboat. Everyone failed her. She went through years of psychological treatment with no success. She was denied her request for an official assisted suicide, however her parents and government agreed that they would not intervene as she starved herself to death. She died on June 2, 2019. Those that should have protected her, even from herself, stood by as she wasted away. Her frail hand was slipping below the surface of the water with no one to save, no lifeboat.
We could discuss the legality of allowing physically healthy people to die. We could discuss the humanity of standing by and watching the life of youth slip away. Both of these are unimaginable. It is my fear that this will become more common. Depression, anxiety and stress are skyrocketing among youth while coping skills and sound reasoning are fading. That coupled with a more progressive “you do you” parenting style, acceptance of all ideals, and no moral anchor. There is a storm coming. Many are adrift. Will you be a lifeboat?
This is not to say that we each must be mental health professionals. This is a call to recognize people that are struggling. Help them get the help they need. Help them to see the lifeboat. Most are not in the dire situation that Noa was in. Most need someone to take an interest, to care, to listen and to show compassion. “Seeing the people, He [Jesus] felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). Be on the alert, “there are souls to rescue, souls to save.” If you are in need of a lifeboat, call or cry out. Noa suffered alone for so long. You don’t have to.