After a series of failed gender reassignment surgeries, a 44-year-old man in Belgium chose to end his life via euthanasia on Monday, reports indicate.
“I was the girl no one wanted,” Nathan Verhelst lamented to the Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, just a few hours before his elective death.
Verhelst, who was born female, recalled to the newspaper’s reporters how he grew up in an unloving family, feeling like a boy trapped in a girl’s body.
He finally started hormone therapy in 2009 and underwent several reassignment surgeries in 2012, but they only made the situation worse for him.
While doctors did not publicly share the specifics of the surgeries, Verhelst told Het Laatste Nieuws that after the procedures, he felt like a monster.
“I was ready to celebrate my new birth," he said, but it was not to be.
"But when I looked in the mirror, I was disgusted with myself. My new breasts did not match my expectations and my penis had symptoms of rejection.”
Verhelst applied for euthanasia several months ago and finally died on Monday in a Brussels hospital. His request was approved based on a 2002 law.
Belgium is one of only three countries in the world that have legalized euthanasia, along with Luxembourg and the Netherlands. He took advantage.
According to the Belgian Evaluation Commission for Euthanasia, released in May 2012, more than 2,000 citizens opted for euthanasia in 2010 and 2011.
That's good enough for 1 percent of deaths in the country.
Evelien Delbeke, a visiting professor at the University of Antwerp, told The Huffington Post that individuals approved for the procedure must meet strict criteria:
“It’s not like people in Belgium can be killed without protection. Our legislation is strict. A strict set of conditions needs to be met and several doctors are involved.”
In order to file a request, applicants need to be of age, mentally competent and suffering from an incurable condition that causes continuous, unbearable suffering.
The disease can be physical as well as psychological.
Applicants must go through several consultations to ensure that the request is not impulsive, and at least a month must pass between the application and the procedure.
The doctor needs to consult with a second independent physician. In cases without a physical disease, a third doctor has to be consulted as well.
Usually, doctors inject patients with a lethal dose through an IV. They lose consciousness within a few seconds, become comatose and die quietly within five minutes.
Separately, Belgians can also sign an advance directive that allows a doctor to administer euthanasia in case they end up in an irreversible coma.
Not all Belgian hospitals agree to euthanasia requests, however, the law passed with popular support and has remained in place for over a decade.
“The law is about giving people the final choice in how they envision a dignified end of life,” said Hannie Van den Bilcke, a consultant at Huis Van De Mens, a humanist organization.
“I want to emphasize ‘dignified,’” she added. “Any person can make the decision to end his or her life, but this law guarantees that it can happen in a dignified way.”
Do you agree? Is allowing elective death by euthanasia ethical?