Belgian Paralympic silver medalist Marieke Vervoort denied on Sunday recent media reports that she was considering euthanasia immediately following her Paralympic appearance.
According to various media outlets in recent weeks, before the 2016 Games, the wheelchair sprinter had said she would finish her career in Rio and perhaps consider euthanasia after that.
On Sunday, Vervoort addressed the reports.
“First of all, I think there is a great mistake about what press told in Belgium. They used the title that I quit after Rio and, right after Rio Paralympic Games, that I go over to euthanasia. And this is totally out of the question. Yes, this is my last Paralympic Games. I have a progressive disease and I signed my euthanasia papers already, in 2008, because it’s really, really hard to handle and to suffer with this disease,” she told reporters.
The 37 year old added that having the papers that would permit her to choose euthanasia gave her peace of mind.
“I hope euthanasia is also something for every country that it means — not murder — that it means that it gives a feeling of rest to the people. If I didn’t have those papers, I think I did already suicide because it’s very hard to live with so many pain and suffering and this unsureness. Every year, it is going more and more less so I’m really glad with those papers. And I am still alive and still going to enjoy every little, little moment of my life,” she said.
Vervoort was struck with a mysterious spinal degenerative illness in 1993 at age 14. It is progressive and incurable and caused her to lose the use of her legs.
“Every year, every time, it’s going more and more less. Every time, I have to give things away. If you see me years ago, I was able to draw beautiful arts, now it’s impossible. My view is really bad; I see only 20 percent,” she said. “What is the next thing coming? I am really scared. But those papers give me a lot of rest in my mind because I know when it’s enough for me, I have those papers. So I find it is a good thing because it’s not easy to get them,” she said.
Vervoort won gold and silver medals in the 2012 Paralympics and was named Paralympian of the year in 2012 and 2015.
Belgium is known to have the world’s most liberal right-to-die laws. Since the law passed in 2002, the number of Belgians opting for euthanasia has risen each year.
© 2016 Reuters