Paralympic gold medalist and euthanasia supporter, Marieke Vervoort, chose to peacefully bring her life to end in her home country of Belgium earlier this week. The 40 year old had won herself both gold and silver medals in wheelchair racing at the 2012 London Paralympics, and two additional medals four years later in Rio de Janeiro.
Vervoort suffered from an irreversible degenerative disease of the spine which caused her immense pain. Sports was the only thing that pushed her to stay alive.
“It’s too hard for my body,” Vervoort explained in an interview in 2016. “Each training I’m suffering because of pain. Every race I train hard. Training and riding and doing competition are medicine for me. I push so hard to push literally all my fear and everything away.”
The paralympian was a strong believer in the prerogative of euthanasia. The process of euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since May of 2002.
“I’m really scared, but those (euthanasia) papers give me a lot of peace of mind because I know when it’s enough for me, I have those papers,” Vervoort expressed. “If I didn’t have those papers, I think I’d have done suicide already. I think there will be fewer suicides when every country has the law of euthanasia. I hope everybody sees that this is not murder, but it makes people live longer.”
Epileptic fits was another unfortunate factor in Vervoort’s life. In addition to helping out with several daily tasks, her dog Zenn used to let her know when an epileptic episode was about to occur. “When I’m going to have an epileptic attack, she warns me one hour before,” said Vervoort. “I don’t know how she feels it.”
For years there has been a lot of controversy over the idea of euthanasia. Provided that the individual has been assessed to be of sound mental health, or at least cognitive enough to choose euthanasia for valid reasons, many believe the procedure should be available to those who are suffering and have no hope of recovery.
Vervoort was a vivacious woman who wanted to be remembered as someone who was “always laughing, always smiling”.
“I feel different about death now than years ago,” Vervoort explained. “For me I think death is something like they operate on you, you go to sleep, and you never wake up. For me it’s something peaceful.”