Sat Sep 23 16:31:24 SAST 2017

I'm not ready yet for euthanasia: Vervoort

By AFP | 2016-09-11 23:43:02.0

Belgium Marieke Vervoort participates in the women's 400 m, during the Rio 2016 Paralympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 10 September 2016.  Picture credits: EPA

Belgian Paralympian Marieke Vervoort said in Rio on Sunday that she’s still considering euthanasia to escape a life of unbearable physical pain — only not quite yet.

Vervoort, who won silver in the 400m wheelchair race, played down reports ahead of the Paralympics that she had planned to be euthanized, which is legal in Belgium, right after the Games.

“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 a press conference.

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

Vervoort, 37, suffers a degenerative muscle disease that causes constant pain and leaves her barely able to sleep.

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 — and sustains her will to live.

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% and I have a lot of epileptic attacks. What’s next?“ The ability to be legally euthanized, she said, had actually given her the courage to keep going as long as she has.

“It gives a feeling of rest to people. 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 said.