A middle-aged Belgian man died Monday afternoon after doctors gave him a medical euthanasia to alleviate “unbearable psychological suffering” following a botched sex change.
The Telegraph reports that physicians likely gave Nathan Verhelst, 44, a lethal injection to facilitate the death. The transgendered man pleaded for a legal euthanasia following the sex change, which left him profoundly dissatisfied. Formerly known as Nancy, the man received hormone therapy in 2009 and then a mastectomy and then surgery last year to construct a penis.
“I was ready to celebrate my new birth,” Verhelst told reporters in Belgium, just hours before his death. “But when I looked in the mirror, I was disgusted with myself. My new breasts did not match my expectations and my new penis had symptoms of rejection. I do not want to be… a monster.”
Verhelst told Belgium journalists that he suffered an emotionally abusive childhood. “While my brothers were celebrated, I got a storage room above the garage as a bedroom,” he said. “’If only you had been a boy,’ my mother complained. I was tolerated, nothing more. “I was the girl that nobody wanted,” Verhelst added.
Indeed, the man's unnamed mother told Belgium newspapers that she had no regrets. "When I saw 'Nancy' for the first time, my dream was shattered," Verhelst's mother said. "She was so ugly. I had a phantom birth. Her death does not bother me."
Wim Distelmans, a cancer specialist, performed the euthanasia, which typically involves an injection. Late last year, the same doctor gave lethal injections to congenitally deaf twins who said they were frightened they were going blind, raising some questions about the nation’s euthanasia laws. Euthanasia cases rose 25 percent last year to 1,432 deaths, as the country debates extending euthanasia rights to children.
Distelmans defended the right to euthanasia in a newspaper interview, asserting that six months of psychological counseling was a sufficient prelude to death. "The choice of Nathan Verhelst has nothing to do with fatigue of life," Distelmans said. "There are other factors that meant he was in a situation with incurable, unbearable suffering. Unbearable suffering for euthanasia can be both physical and psychological. This was a case that clearly met the conditions demanded by the law. Nathan underwent counseling for six months."
The physician similarly defended his decision to grant euthanasia to the two deaf twins, Marc and Eddy Verbessem, 45 years of age.
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, whereas assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and the U.S. states Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and Montana.