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article imageBelgian Paralympian: ready for euthanasia — but not yet

By Jessica Lopez (AFP)     Sep 11, 2016 in Sports

Belgian Paralympian Marieke Vervoort, who shocked and saddened the world with her revelation that she wants to be euthanized, says she's not ready to die quite yet.

Vervoort said in Rio on Sunday that she's still considering euthanasia to escape a life of unbearable physical pain -- only not now.

A silver medal on Saturday in the 400m wheelchair race at the Rio Paralympics has helped remind her of the good things she's been living for.

But at a press conference where she showed off the medal and flashed a victory sign, she also talked soberly about how she may end it all.

Reports ahead of the Paralympics that she planned to be euthanized -- which is legal in Belgium -- right after the Games were wrong, Vervoort said.

The time, though, may still come.

"I have my (euthanasia) papers in my hand, but I'm still enjoying every little moment. When the moment comes when I have more bad days than good days, then I have my euthanasia papers, but the time is not there yet," she told journalists.

Belgium's Marieke Vervoort competes in the final of the women's 400 metres at the Rio 2016...
Belgium's Marieke Vervoort competes in the final of the women's 400 metres at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games
Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP/File

She confirmed that this would be her last competition and that she had signed the paperwork to be euthanized back in 2008.

- Relief of death -

Vervoort, 37, suffers a degenerative muscle disease that causes constant pain, paralysis in her legs and leaves her barely able to sleep. She was just 14 when the diagnosis was made and gradually her life became torture.

A Paralympic 100m gold medalist and 200m silver medalist in the 2012 London Games, her silver in Rio caps a distinguished career in a sport that she loves.

Next comes trying to appreciate her life off the track, she said, but euthanasia will always be there as an option if things get too painful.

"After the Paralympic Games, when I quit, I'm going to enjoy every little moment in my life and I'm going to put more energy in my family and friends, which I couldn't do with top sports because I had to train every day," she said.

Vervoort described her physical condition as a constant battle, saying her eyesight was "very bad. I see only 20 percent and I have a lot of epileptic attacks. What's next?"

The ability to be legally euthanized, she said, actually gave her the courage to keep going as long as she has. Ironically, this talented sportswoman has become something of a spokeswoman for the controversial subject.

Vervoort said euthanasia must not be characterized as "murder."

"It gives a feeling of rest to people," she said.

"If I hadn't gotten those (euthanasia) papers I think I would already have committed suicide because it's very hard to live with so much pain and suffering and this unsureness.

"I know when it's enough for me, I have those papers," she added.

More about oly, 2016, Paralympics, Belgium, vervoort
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