Women's Sports: Marieke Vervoort, Paralympian champion, has died by euthanasia

Paralympian, Marieke Vervoort, has died by euthanasia at the age of 40.

The Belgian athlete won gold and silver medals at London 2020 Paralympic Games in T52 100m and 200m events. 

She subsequently won three gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and a bronze and silver medal at her final Paralympics in Rio 2016.

Vervoort suffered from a rare and incurable muscular disease which left her in almost constant pain and unable to live unassisted. She first noticed the early signs of the disease aged 14 with a persistent infected Achilles, the disease then gradually spread up her body.

In 2008 Vervoort signed papers in her native Belgium that would eventually allow a doctor to end her life. Belgium has some of the most liberal euthanasia laws in the world and after the Rio Olympics in 2016 Vervoort announced she would follow the path of euthanasia if her suffering worsened.

“It gives a feeling of rest to people. I know when it’s enough for me, I have those papers,” she said.

Vervoort’s condition meant she was unable to sleep, epileptic seizures, she was in constant pain and paralysis in her legs. Yet, she continued competing in her sport for many years.

“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.”

She told the Evening Standard in 2017 of her hopes for her family and friends once she passed away.

“The people will cry, but I want them also to give thanks for the life I had, for the fact that I’m happy now I’m at peace,” she said.  

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