For people who create podcasts, there are dozens or even hundreds of topics on which they can focus. Usually, they look for something uplifting and life-affirming. Some of them also focus on how to get out of debt, lose weight, or otherwise do something that could potentially make life better for you and thousands of other people. But sometimes, they choose to document the other side of things. “The Daily” podcast did that, by telling the story of a Belgian athlete and her desire for euthanasia.
Champion paralympian Marieke Vervoort retired from professional sports in 2016, after the Rio games. At the time she made headlines for openly discussing euthanasia. Rio was her last wish, and she explained that she would then live as well as she could for as long as she could. When her bad days began to outnumber her good days, she would exercise her right to choose death. She made that choice in October of 2019, but she had her euthanasia papers in order much earlier than that. They were signed in 2008.
Vervoort had reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which is a degenerative disease that attacks the spine and muscles. She was diagnosed at 14, and knew at the time that as she aged she was going to see a decreased quality of life. The disease caused her significant pain, and also disturbed her ability to sleep. She also had epilepsy, and a service dog who was able to alert her before she had a seizure. Her condition eventually deteriorated to the point that she made her final choice.
Photojournalist Lynsey Addario documented Vervoort’s life as it neared its end. Addario discussed how she was so used to documenting people who were trying so hard to live, such as children in war-torn countries. Working with Vervoort was the first time she had experienced meeting someone who was truly wanting, and planning, to die. Vervoort was 40 years old at the time of her death.
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