- Title: Belgian Paralympian dies by euthanasia aged 40
- Date: 23rd October 2019
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Dutch) RESIDENT OF DIEST, MARCELLA BORGIONS (69), SAYING: "I came here to say goodbye to Marieke. It's a goodbye and not a goodbye, because she will never really disappear out of my life. She has been an example of strength to me, courage and persistence. Those are the reason why I came here and why she will never be really dead to me, she will always be there." RESIDENT SIGNING BOOK OF CONDOLENCES WITH CHILDREN IMAGE OF VERVOORT BEHIND FLOWERS PERSON SIGNING BOOK OF CONDOLENCES (SOUNDBITE) (Dutch) RESIDENT OF DIEST AND HOUSEWIFE, NOELLE STUBBS (41), SAYING: "I am really sorry, she was way too young. But I understand why she chose to do it (ending her life through euthanasia). We should respect her choice, she is not in pain anymore now." ILLUSTRATION AND WRITING IN BOOK OF CONDOLENCES ILLUSTRATION OF VERVOORT DURING 2012 LONDON PARALYMPICS AND DIEST RESIDENTS CHEERING HER ON VISITOR READING BOOK OF CONDOLENCES MESSAGE IN BOOK OF CONDOLENCES, READING (Dutch): "The lioness of Diest. The embodiment of fighting spirit. A great woman!" (SOUNDBITE) (Dutch) RESIDENT OF DIEST, LINDA VANDELOOK (56), SAYING: "I'm a chronic pain patient myself, so I know what pain is. I have severe pain myself, but what she has been through was much worse. That's why I tip my hat to her, because I can understand a little bit what she's been through." CANDLES ON TABLE NEXT TO IMAGE OF VERVOORT PEOPLE WAITING INSIDE TOWN HALL TO SIGN BOOK OF CONDOLENCES PEOPLE SIGNING BOOK OF CONDOLENCES (SOUNDBITE) (Dutch) MAYOR OF DIEST, CHRISTOPHE DE GRAEF, SAYING: "Marieke was very present among the inhabitants of Diest, she was one of us. We saw her on TV, but also in the street with her wheeler. She was very present in Diest. And we all knew that one day she would choose for euthanasia, it still struck us last night. The least we could do for her was putting this book of condolences here, where many people have passed already to send a message to Marieke or her family." BELGIAN FLAG OUTSIDE TOWN HALL STREET IN DIEST WITH RESIDENTS WALKING DIEST TOWN HALL
- Embargoed: 6th November 2019 13:08
- Keywords: MArieke Vervoort Euthanasia Paralympian
- Location: DIEST, BELGIUM AND RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
- City: DIEST, BELGIUM AND RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: Health/Medicine,Sport
- Reuters ID: LVA002B2BJDXB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Belgian Paralympian Marieke Vervoort died by euthanasia on Tuesday (October 22) aged 40 after a battle with an incurable and degenerative spinal condition which she described after winning her medals as becoming harder and harder to bear.
Vervoort, who won Paralympic gold in the 100 metres wheelchair race in the London Games in 2012, had signed euthanasia papers in 2008 in Belgium, where it is legal, and died in accordance with her wishes late on Tuesday.
Vervoort, who also won silver medals in London and at Rio in 2016, was diagnosed with the painful condition as a teenager and retired from competition after the Rio Games. She advocated dialogue on assisted dying in countries around the world.
Speaking in Rio in 2016, she said "This is my last Paralympic Games. I have a progressive disease and I signed my euthanasia papers already, in 2008, because it's really, really hard to handle, and to suffer with this disease."
Having the papers that would permit her to choose euthanasia gave her peace of mind, she said, adding: "I hope euthanasia is also something for every country that it means - not murder - that it means giving a feeling of rest to people."
Vervoort told reporters at the Rio Paralympics that, without the papers she would probably have already committed suicide because "it's very hard to live with so much pain and suffering and this unsureness."
She spoke candidly of the loss of her physical abilities and the ability to draw and the reduction of her eyesight. "What is the next thing coming? I am really scared. But those papers give me a lot of rest in my mind because I know when it's enough for me, I have those papers."
But she added, "I am still alive and still going to enjoy every little, little moment of my life."
"Marieke 'Wielemie' Vervoort was an athlete of iron strength and a great lady. Her death affects us deeply," Belgium's royal family said on Twitter, using her nickname 'Wielemie', a reference to the wheels of her wheelchair.
The town of Diest in northern Belgium, where Vervoort was born, set up a book of condolence and carried a long message on its website.
"Despite her physical limitations she had an impressive sporting career," the town said. "Marieke chose euthanasia a few years ago and followed through on her choice on Tuesday evening."
Local poet Kristien Nys also penned some lines to the "silver-plated, gold-plated" Vervoort with an iron will and "angelic patience". Vervoort's smile would no longer be seen.
"But your pain is also gone, you have done your last lap, you have waited long enough, your big battle has been fought."
(Production: Bart Biesemans)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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