Belgian Paralympic silver medallist considering euthanasia
Marieke Vervoort has incurable spinal condition and signed assisted suicide papers in 2008
Belgium’s Marieke Vervoort posing on the medal podium after winning the silver medal in the women’s 400m – T52 final during the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Al Tielemans/EPA/OIS/IOC
Belgium’s Marieke Vervoort during the women’s 400m wheelchair race at the Paralympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Marcelo Sayao/EPA
Belgian Paralympian Marieke Vervoort has said she is still considering euthanasia but contrary to media reports, would not be ending her life immediately after the Games in Rio.
The 37-year-old, who won a silver medal in the 400m wheelchair race on Saturday, suffers from an incurable and degenerative spinal condition and signed euthanasia papers in 2008 in Belgium, where it is legal.
Belgian media reported before the Games that she might take her life after Rio, but Vervoort rejected the reports in an emotional media conference on Sunday.
“I have my [euthanasia] papers in my hand, but I’m still enjoying every little moment,” she told reporters.
“When the moment comes when I have more bad days than good days, then I have my euthanasia papers, but the time is not there yet.”
Vervoort, who was diagnosed with the painful condition as a teenager and won Paralympic gold in the 100m and silver in the 200m in the London Games in 2012, confirmed that the Rio Games would be her last competitive appearance.
She added that having the choice to end her life gave her hope and strength and encouraged a dialogue on assisted dying in countries around the world.
“When I didn’t have those papers, I would have committed suicide,” she said.
“I hope other countries like Brazil can talk about it. It makes people live longer. It doesn’t mean that when people sign the papers, they have to die two weeks later. I signed my papers in 2008. Look now, 2016 and I won the silver medal.
“Now my fear of death is gone . . . I don’t want to suffer when I die.”