Belgian Paralympian Marieke Vervoort has died aged 40 after ending her life through euthanasia.
Vervoort, a Paralympic gold medalist at London 2012, lived with a degenerative spinal condition that caused her constant pain and made sleeping very difficult.
A statement from her home city Diest said Vervoort “responded to her choice on Tuesday evening.”
Vervoort won gold in the T52 100m wheelchair race and silver in the 200m race at the London 2012 Paralympics, and claimed two further medals at Rio 2016.
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, and in 2008, she received assisted suicide approval after receiving consent from three different doctors.
In an interview with CNN in 2016, Vervoort explained that her decision to sign the euthanasia papers gave her back control.
“I no longer have a fear of death,” she said. “I see it as an operation, where you go to sleep and never wake up. For me it’s something peaceful. I don’t want to suffer when I’m dying.
“When it becomes too much for me to handle than I have my life in my own hands.”
Vervoort competed in the T52 classification for athletes who have limited or no mobility below their waists and who have impaired motor skills in their arms and hands.
Since retiring from sport after the Paralympics in 2016 — admitting it had become “too hard on my body” — Vervoort spent more time with her family, friends and her therapy dog, Zenn.
“When I’m going to have an epileptic attack, she warns me one hour before. I don’t know how she feels it,” Vervoort said.
Apart from a few countries, euthanasia is illegal in most of the world.
After signing her confirmation papers, Vervoort said she wanted to use the attention she garnered to educate other nations that lack assisted suicide measures for people whose suffering is unbearable.
“I think there will be fewer suicides when every country has the law of euthanasia. I hope everybody sees that this is not murder, but it makes people live longer,” she said.