TODAY |

Inaccurate reports of Dutch euthanasia death shared by MPs, Disability Rights Commissioner

Articles surrounding Dutch teenager Noa Pothoven's death by legal euthanasia, that later were shown to be incorrect, were widely circulated throughout New Zealand - including by MPs and the Disability Rights Commissioner. 

Inaccurate reports of Ms Pothoven's death swept through news outlets around the world, which included The Independent, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Daily Beast, and New Zealand sites such as Stuff and NewsHub. The outlets have since corrected the story, or have made clarifications. 

Ms Pothoven, who was reported by Dutch News to have had anorexia, depression and PTSD, ended her life last Sunday after refusing food and water. 

It had been incorrectly reported she had been legally euthanised. Politico reporter Naomi O'Leary tweeted she spoke to local Dutch reporter Paul Bolwerk, who covered the story. "Without telling her parents, she sought and was refused euthanasia," Ms O'Leary wrote. 

The Levenseindekliniek (End of Life Clinic) in the Netherlands released a statement in Dutch and English, with the English version stating:

"To put an end to incorrect reporting (in foreign media in particular) about her death, we refer to the statement made by friends of Noa this afternoon: Noa Pothoven did not die of euthanasia. To stop her suffering, she has stopped eating and drinking.

"De Levenseindekliniek deals exclusively with euthanasia and does so explicitly within the Dutch legal framework."

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero yesterday retweeted a story from Stuff, titled, "Dutch teenager abused as child legally euthanised". Stuff today, declined to comment, and Ms Tesoriero's share drew criticism from National MP Chris Bishop. 

Paula Tesoriero. Source: Human Rights Commission.

A spokesperson for Ms Tesoriero wrote in a tweet that she 'retweeted an earlier version of this story in good faith as did many worldwide media outlets. I'm pleased the story has been corrected... Thanks to everyone who pointed this out to me'. 

The original retweet was deleted after inquiries by 1 NEWS. 

The spokesperson said Ms Tesoriero said it was "always worrying when news stories inaccurately represent a situation".

"People should make an effort to correct information when they become aware that it is not accurate as she [the Disability Commissioner] has done."

National MP Chris Bishop said the misreporting "shows the dangers of the quickness of the news cycle". 

Chris Bishop
Source: 1 NEWS

"I was disappointed the Disability Commissioner shared it because the facts that were in the initial article were inaccurate and it was disappointing a public office holder like her would do that.

"The facts are incredibly tragic and the initially reporting slanted, and wrong."

Of his National Party colleagues who had also shared the misreported story, Mr Bishop said that "people have strong view but it is important to get the facts straight".

National MP Maggie Barry, who posted the news.com.au article yesterday on her personal Facebook page titled, "Teen legally euthanised after rape" and wrote "Is euthanasia really what this teen needed?", today said she had "shared it in the expectation that it was accurate". 

Revelations against the National MP come as the Retirement Commissioner is stood down while claims against her are investigated.
Source: 1 NEWS

"Having been in the media for more than 30 years myself, it is disappointing when the minimum standards we need and expect from our media are not met," Ms Barry said.

"I’ve now brought it to the attention of my personal post readers about what the Guardian's reported, namely that apparently the Dutch teen died after voluntarily refusing to eat or drink which is legal and that there is no evidence that her death was assisted.

"I have also asked readers of my post that if they read the inaccurate Australian story yesterday, to please go to the Guardian website and read their corrections."

National MP Chris Penk, who retweeted an article from US news site The Daily Beast, told 1 NEWS the death of Ms Pothoven was a "terribly sad end to a young person’s life in any case".

Proposed legislation that would allow for assisted dying in some circumstances prepares for a return to New Zealand Parliament in its second reading. New Zealand MPs will make their second conscience vote on the bill. 

Mr Penk said Ms Pothoven's situation was "instructive for New Zealand lawmakers considering Mr Seymour’s proposed bill".

"The concept of 'terminal illness' is extremely difficult to define. Mr Seymour’s bill doesn’t even attempt a definition of 'terminal illness', which is dangerously lazy legislative practice.

"Second, the key assumption of Mr Seymour’s bill is that the apparent choice of an individual must prevail regardless of circumstances.

"There is nothing in Mr Seymour’s bill to safeguard a person from self-imposed pressure to choose death in response to suffering sexual abuse and PTSD (such as Ms Pothoven reportedly had suffered) or any other kind of abuse or neglect."

In response, ACT's David Seymour said it was "a disgrace that opponents of assisted dying blithely and shamelessly spread misinformation in order to further their cause and are continuing to politicise this tragic case to mislead the public".

Last year, Mr Seymour attempted to suggest adjustments to the bill, including limiting access to only the terminally ill rather than including people with grievous and incurable medical conditions, specifically stating people with mental health conditions do not qualify and holding a binding referendum on the bill.

National MP Melissa Lee had also retweeted the news.com.au article, but had not yet responded to 1 NEWS. 

News.com.au were also approached for comment but had not yet replied. 

Source: TVNZ

Source: 1 NEWS