Belgian Paralympic Gold Medallist Marieke Vervoort Ends Her Life Through Euthanasia
Marieke Vervoort, who took the top prize in the T52 100m wheelchair sprint seven years ago, was suffering from a degenerative spinal disease that caused her to have seizures, left her paralysed in her legs, and in constant pain.
A simple statement made by her home city of Diest said that Vervoort, who also took two medals at the Rio games four years later, 'responded to her choice on Tuesday evening'.
Euthanasia is legal in her native Belgium, and Vervoort signed paperwork back in 2008 that paved the way for doctors to one day end her life.
This decision isn't one that has been taken lightly. Vervoort said after the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil that she was considering allowing the doctors to take her life.
In a 2016 interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, she said: "It can be that I feel very, very bad, I get an epileptic attack, I cry, I scream because of pain. I need a lot of painkillers, Valium, morphine.
"A lot of people ask me how is it possible that you can have such good results and still be smiling with all the pain and medication that eats your muscles. For me, sports, and racing with a wheelchair - it's a kind of medication."
As well as the London 2012 gold, Vervoort won silver in the T52 200m at the same games, then followed that up with silver in the T51/52 400m, and bronze in the T51/52 200m wheelchair race four years afterwards.
When asked about her decision to sign the paperwork all those years ago, she said: "It gives a feeling of rest to people. I know when it's enough for me, I have those papers."
A book of condolence has been opened in her home city this morning.
In preparation for her passing, Vervoort told The Telegraph that she'd planned every aspect in minute detail and had written letters to her loved ones.
She also said at the time that she wanted her ashes to be scattered in Lanzarote, where she had holidayed every Christmas, and for white butterflies to be released from a red box when she died.
Fellow athlete Katharine Merry paid tribute to the Belgian, tweeting: "It was a pleasure to watch her win medals in two Paralympic games. Competing was her happy place and as she said, her medication. RIP Marieke."
Featured Image Credit: PA
Topics: World News