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.