Pain can do that to you . . .

I was saddened to read that a Belgian athlete has chosen euthanasia as the only way she could see to end her pain.

Belgian paralympian Marieke Vervoort, who won gold and silver medals in wheelchair racing at the 2012 London Paralympics and silver at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, died by euthanasia Tuesday, officials said.

Vervoort, 40, suffered from incurable, degenerative spinal pain. She said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro three years ago that she only got about 10 minutes of sleep some nights and described the pain that caused others to pass out from just watching her. She said sports kept her alive.

“It’s too hard for my body,” Vervoort said 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.”

Vervoort, a strong advocate for the right to choose euthanasia, spent her final evening with close friends and family. Before she died, she said signing the euthanasia papers gave her control and allowed her to put “my own life in my hands.”

There’s more at the link.

Ms. Vervoort wouldn’t have been interested in my opinion, of course, which is based on my religious faith.  I believe that since life is God’s gift, we don’t have the right to decide when to end it (with obvious exceptions such as the right to self-defense, etc.).  Nevertheless, I can sympathize very deeply with her position, because I understand it from personal experience.

I’ve been in constant, non-stop, 24/7/365 pain since my spinal injury on February 13th, 2004.  It led to two surgeries and a spinal fusion, and left me permanently partially disabled, with pretty severe damage to my sciatic nerve.  I have to use pain-killers almost every day.  If it weren’t for them, I certainly wouldn’t be able to cope with the situation.  I’m very fortunate that I can still get a prescription for what I need, and that lower-level narcotics still bring me relief.  I know people who need heavy-duty opiates for their pain, who can’t get prescriptions any more, thanks to the War On (some) Drugs.  They’re in a terrible way as a result.

I’m not a suicidal type of person, particularly because of my faith;  but I can tell you, there’ve been times, during days of very great pain (which affect me sometimes), when I’ve understood with great clarity how some people just decide that they can’t take any more, and they’d rather be dead than endure it any longer.  I’ve never taken such a decision . . . but there are days when I’ve thought about the pain, and my hopelessness at knowing it was never going to stop, rather longer than I like to admit.  It’s been scary, sometimes.

If you know someone living with pain every day, spare him or her a thought, and do what you can to help them.  It’s no fun at all to have to go through that, knowing there will never be any relief.  Tomorrow’s going to hurt just as much as today, if not more so.  If you aren’t strong, it’ll grind you down for sure. 

I’m very sorry Ms. Vervoort chose to end her own life.  I pray her family and friends may find what peace they can in her passing;  and I pray that her sins will be forgiven, and that she will be happier in the afterlife than she was in this one.



  1. An uncle did that. His prostate cancer had been fought into remission, but came back a few years later. As he noted, he either was too drugged up to think or do anything, or in too much pain to think or do anything, and it was costing the family a mint to keep him alive. Since he was a DO, he prescribed himself a lethal dose and took it.

  2. My youngest son had CRPS from his service injuries. His self medication led to taking too much. and it resulted in his death at age 41. His pain levels were so high suicide would have been a relief. His faith wouldn't allow it. The coroner ruled his death an accident.

  3. Since 05-29-2014 at approx. 1300 hrs when I regained awareness after my stroke, I have been in constant pain. As though the pain scale shifted. A 5 to 7 on a 0 to 10 scale is the reference point for my new 0. Life changes, we go on as best we can.

  4. Would someone with unbearable pain, or a terminal medical condition who opts for assisted suicide for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of entering cryonic suspension still be considered a "suicide" in your guys' moral context? By the standards of information theoretic death (the only scientifically legitimate definition of death) that person is still potentially alive, assuming a regeneration/reanimation technology at some point in the future.

  5. I would probably make the same choice…there are worse things than death and I am comfortable in my (Reformed Protestant) faith with that decision should it ever come to that. We all die…and He is clear that there are NO unforgivable sins no matter what the Pope says.

  6. kurt9 – so far, cryonic suspension is death. Current cryo methods still leave too many ice crystals forming in brain tissue, which is definitely a No Bueno moment for attempted de-cryonicing.

    There's a future in that process, much like there's a future in fusion energy or non-standard fission reactors (thorium etc) for commercial use.

  7. My sister's MS took over her body until she had the use of her right arm only. When even that was waining she took her life. She might have continued but it was near impossible for her to get the live-in help she needed. Her help would leave unexpectantly or not show up at all. Leaving her helpless.
    It has changed my mind on the issue and plan on doing likewise when I find myself unable to care for myself.
    We are unfathomably lucky to have life.

  8. Most people talk about the rightness or wrongness of suicide. You took a different road and discussed the need to understand the reason(s) a person will decide to take their own life.
    Constant pain is a fact of life for my lady and I can understand the impact pain can have on the quality of life and the thought process of those impacted by chronic pain.
    Thank you for your empathy and understanding.

  9. Peter, have you looked into a spinal cord stimulator? The technology has improved greatly over the last decade. It's done wonders for my wife, who had one implanted in the cervical region to combat trigemital neuralgia secondary to an acoustic neuroma. It's reduced her pain to an amazing amount. Stimulators for the thoracic and lumbar region have been used much longer and the technology is more developed.

  10. Beans, Cryonics has come a long ways since the time that "freezing bursts cells". They do vitrification these days.

    As side note, about the same time that lady with terminal brain cancer in Portland made a publicity stunt over her assisted suicide, there was another young lady of the same age and same medical condition who did the same thing in order to get a good cryopreservation. The difference is the second young lady did not make a media spectacle of herself.

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