Paralympian Marieke Vervoort said when the day arrived, she had signed the euthanasia papers and was prepared to end her life.
That day came Tuesday (Wednesday NZ time) in her native Belgium, her death confirmed in a statement from the city of Diest.
Vervoort, who was 40, won gold and silver medals in wheelchair racing at the 2012 London Paralympics, and two more medals three years ago in Rio de Janeiro.
In an interview attended by The Associated Press at the Paralympics in Rio, Vervoort described living with unbroken pain from an incurable, degenerative spinal disease.
She talked of sleeping only 10 minutes some nights, described severe pain that caused others to pass out just watching her, and detailed how sports kept her alive.
“It’s too hard for my body,” Vervoort said in the 2016 interview. “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.”
Vervoort spent her last evening with close friends and family, even sharing a glass of sparkling wine, which she referred to as a painkiller.
I’m glad she lived in a country where she could make such a choice.
Vervoort was a strong advocate of the right to choose euthanasia, which is legal in Belgium. Like training hard, she said it gave her control and put “my own life in my hands.”
“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,” she said.
“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.”
I think this is right – the alternative to euthanasia is often suicide.