Press Release

Marieke, Addicted to life – the right to die gave her the will to live

Marieke, Addicted to life – the right to die gave her the will to live cover
January 27, 2023

On 1 February 2023, the inspirational documentary about the last three years in the life of our extraordinary Paralympic champion athlete Marieke Vervoort will be released in cinemas. The film draws on Marieke’s story to examine the existential and moral questions about how we reflect on dying and living.

Marieke, Addicted to Life is an American-Belgian documentary film by Pola Rapaport, co-produced with Antwerp-based production company Associate Directors. It received financial support from the King Baudouin Foundation via the Hibiscus Fund and the Health Research Fund, among others.

In 2016, Marieke Vervoort came to international attention after winning silver and bronze medals at the Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. During the press conference in Rio, Marieke told the world she had been granted written permission to undergo euthanasia back in 2008, but that she wanted to live until she could no longer tolerate the physical pain. With this open, honest and, for many, shocking statement, Marieke’s story was suddenly worldwide news.

As a teenager, the future looked bright for Marieke – until the age of 14, when she was struck by a rare degenerative muscle and spine disease that slowly paralysed her body. By the age of 20, Marieke was permanently confined to a wheelchair, but that did not stop the young athlete from looking for an outlet in sport. She discovered wheelchair basketball, took part in paratriathlons and won amazing victories. However, in 2008, Marieke collapsed after failing to complete the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. She was in so much pain that she contemplated suicide. After talking with palliative care specialist Dr Wim Distelmans she decided to apply for permission to undergo euthanasia. The ability to choose to die at any time gave Marieke the strength and desire to get everything she could out of life for more than 10 years.

About the Hibiscus Fund

The Hibiscus Fund supports projects that serve children, young people and adults with a physical disability and/or multiple disabilities. Priority is given to projects by the Dominiek Savio Institute, a non-profit association located in Gits, Belgium. The Fund can also contribute to projects for children from the West Flanders province of Belgium diagnosed with cancer or for emergencies and disasters in Belgium or abroad.