Pope Francis has weighed in on the case of a Dutch girl who committed suicide after enduring a rape as a child, calling for greater care for those who are tempted to despair.
“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are a defeat for all,” the pope tweeted Wednesday. “We are called never to abandon those who are suffering, never giving up but caring and loving to restore hope.”
Media around the world originally reported that 17-year-old Noa Pothoven of Arnhem had undergone legal euthanasia, a story that was corrected Wednesday. The girl had indeed requested to be put to death, saying that the suffering of having been molested and raped as a child was “unbearable,” but state authorities denied her request until her 21st birthday.
In a 2018 interview with the regional Dutch newspaper De Gelderlander, Noa explained that authorities had directed her toward therapeutic treatments and her request for euthanasia was postponed until her 21st birthday.
Noa had battled for years with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anorexia after being molested and raped as a young girl, a topic she dealt with at length in a memoir titled Winning or Learning.
Noa eventually decided to end her own life, and committed suicide by refusing food and drink, reportedly with the knowledge and complicity of her family.
“I deliberated for quite a while whether or not I should share this, but decided to do it anyway,” Noa wrote on social media. “Maybe this comes as a surprise to some, given my posts about hospitalization, but my plan has been there for a long time and is not impulsive.”
“I will get straight to the point: within a maximum of 10 days I will die,” she said. “After years of battling and fighting, I am drained. I have quit eating and drinking for a while now, and after many discussions and evaluations, it was decided to let me go because my suffering is unbearable.”
With his tweet, the pope has suggested that persons like Noa who have undergone traumatic suffering deserve better care and attention to help rediscover meaning and value in life.