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Tell Paralympian Marieke that her life is worth living

Posted by Anthony Ozimic on 5 August 2016


Contact Marieke and let her know that her life is worth living

I was stunned when I read that Marieke Vervoort, the Belgian paralympian, said she is considering euthanasia after next month's Paralympics in Rio, Brazil:

The Express newspaper reports that she said:

"After Rio, I will stop my sports career, I want to see what life brings me and I will try to enjoy the finest moments.

"I have a bucket list, including stunt flying, and I have started thinking about euthanasia.

"In spite of my condition, I have been able to experience things that others can only dream of."

The dh.be website also reported her saying:

"Every day, I am ill. Some nights I only sleep 10 minutes and then I have to train ... I will try to train more because I want to win medals. Every day is like a gift."

Conflicted

Judging from her comments, it would seem to me that Marieke is conflicted. At one moment she laments her condition and in the next moment she loves her life. This shows the common experience of those, disabled or otherwise, who feel some attraction towards suicide or euthanasia, but who actually need and want at some level, not so much death, as help to cope with the challenges of their lives.

The late Alison Davis knew this very well. She was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus and later developed emphysema, osteoporosis and arthritis. By her thirties her spine was collapsing, trapping nerves and causing excruciating pain. Using to a wheelchair from the age of 14, she needed full-time care.

No Less Human

For ten years she expressed what seemed to be a settled wish to die, and made several suicide attempts. She was saved by her friends, who convinced her that her life had value. She went on to become Britain's most prominent anti-euthanasia figure, and the founder of No Less Human, SPUC's disability rights group. Her love and witness gave hope to other disabled people, including in India where she supported disabled children; to her colleagues, and everyone with whom she came in contact.

I am grateful to Alison and to Janet Thomas, her long-time fellow campaigner and No Less Human's current organiser, for the following points about euthanasia:

  • Human beings have dignity and value simply because they are human beings.  This is not affected by such things as state of health, suffering, looks, abilities, wealth or esteem in the eyes of others.
  • Once it is established that certain conditions make life hopeless and worthless and therefore better ended, a very strong message is sent out to other people with these conditions. This has been noted when high profile cases of individuals wanting euthanasia have been discussed in the media, leading to other people with those conditions expressing fear and worry about what lies in store for them.
  • Those who are depressed or despairing should be helped to value their lives, and every effort should be made to control pain and other distressing symptoms, to enable suffering people to enjoy their life until they die naturally.
  • It is interesting to note that both hospice doctors (who work every day with sick and dying people and are totally opposed to euthanasia) and doctors in Holland who actually practise euthanasia, say that it is depression rather than physical pain which is behind the vast majority of requests for euthanasia.
  • For those whose pain cannot be completely controlled, true compassion means that we should share suffering in the sense of staying with the suffering person. Real love involves itself in others’ suffering and shares it. Sham love, like that offered by euthanasia advocates, separates itself from the suffering person, and suggests that death is the sensible solution.
  • It is just as wrong to kill a person who is asking to die as to kill a person who is incapable of expressing any decision about euthanasia.  Deliberate killing of innocent people, whether or not they have asked to die is always wrong. However, once killing is seen as an acceptable response to human suffering there is no end to the number of potential victims.

The motto on Marieke's website is "Sporten voor het leven" (Sport for life). Contact Marieke today via her website at http://site.wielemie.be/contact/ and let her know that her life is worth living! As Rhoslyn Thomas, SPUC's youth officer, told me: "If every Paralympian decided to kill themselves, there would be no Paralympics!"

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