She Told Euthanasia Story, Didn't Intend to Be a Part of It

Lynsey Addario writes of photographing the journey of Paralympian Marieke Vervoort
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2019 1:15 PM CST
Story of Euthanasia Becomes Personal for Photographer
In this 2016 photo, Belgium's Marieke Vervoort warms up for a race during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.   (AP Photo/Mauro Pimentel, File)

When Paralympic athlete Marieke Vervoort ended her life legally through euthanasia in Belgium earlier this year, the news made international headlines. Now comes a moving account of Vervoot's story from one of the handful of people in the room during those final moments: photographer Lynsey Addario. In a New York Times op-ed, Addario explains that she began photographing Vervoort in 2017 and continued doing so over the next 2.5 years. Inevitably—and against Addario's journalistic instincts—they became friends. "I learned how to hold her when she choked, to pat her back and comfort her, hoping she regained consciousness," the photographer writes. "Sometimes I took a photograph right away, and then tried to help—because I was the only one in the room, and though I had been taught as a young photographer never to intervene, I am a human being."

Addario chronicles how the degenerative muscular disease that left Vervoort in constant pain worsened, and how Vervoort finally made the decision to end her life. She writes of befriending Vervoort's mother, too; of the sobs in the room as Vervoort slipped away; and of how she looked at peace "for the first time" since Addario had known her. "I don’t know whether I crossed the lines of journalism by becoming close to my subject or who decides when it is OK for a 'subject' to become a friend," she writes. But Addario doesn't think their friendship compromised her ability to tell Vervoot's story. In fact, it seemed the only way: "I needed to get to know Marieke and her family to understand how painful and difficult life could be, to decide to end it." Read the full piece. (More euthanasia stories.)

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