I am in tears tonight loves. Tears of sadness for Belgian female-to-male transsexual Nathan Verhelst, who opted for euthanasia, after his gender reassignment surgery went wrong. Tears of anger and frustration at the frankly stupid things I have read otherwise intelligent people saying on the matter.
Nathan was born a girl into a family with three brothers. He always identified as a boy and felt shunned as a girl. He took his first hormone treatments in 2009, underwent a full mastectomy to remove his breasts in 2012 and penis reconstruction in 2013. The mastectomy apparently had not been a great success and his penis was showing signs of rejection.
Having lived a difficult life with the anguish of recognising and coming to terms with his gender identity, the failure of gender reassignment was too much for him. Filled with psychological torture, Nathan decided life was no longer worth living. Nathan, who otherwise made a beautiful figure of a man, was euthanised by lethal injection administered by Doctor Wim Distelmans on Monday, 30 September 2013. He was 44 years old.
I found this story in a secularists group, and I was astounded by the statements I read. One stated “I believe euthanasia should be available for those facing a long a painful death and who wish it.” Well dears, Nathan Verhelst was facing a long and painful death; the psychological pain of being neither male nor female and slowly dying with that for decades. But then, the same person also stated “However in saying that in this poor mans case I think he was let down by psychological services in getting to the real root of his unhappiness leaving him, in his mind, with no other option.” Others on the same thread also said he should have been given psychological help.
What sort of psychological “help” I ask myself? What psychological treatment could ever bring Nathan to terms with who and what he is? More importantly, what sort of psychological treatment could ever bring him to terms with that he could not be? It was not so long ago that we gave homosexual men and women psychological “treatment” to tell them that they could not be gay or lesbian. Would any psychological treatment administered to Nathan not be tantamount to the same? Would it not be, in the final instance, condescending, patronising and pointless? The psychological treatment homosexual men and women receive nowadays, many times to prevent them from suicide, teaches them that they are normal people, deserving of love and respect, and with nothing to be ashamed of. Where would any psychologist start with Nathan Verhelst, who wanted to be himself – and was ultimately denied that.
It is well seeing that those who made those comments are cisgender heterosexuals; the very people who can never possibly comprehend the psychological pain of what it is to be outside of society’s “norms”.
There were also some who even questioned whether mental grounds should even be considered as grounds for euthanasia. Are people really so backwards that they cannot realise that psychological pain is often every bit as devastating as physical pain? Did not even William Shakespeare recognise that when he wrote the Scottish Play in 1603;
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?
(Macbeth, Act 5: Scene 3)
The torture that Nathan Verhelst faced was permanent. It was pain he was doomed to live with every day for the rest of his natural life, which may have lasted more than another forty years, and it was never going to go away. For Nathan, all quality of life was lost, and that it undoubtedly the final deciding factor in any case of euthanasia.
It may not surprise those reading this to learn that I am fully in favour of euthanasia where quality of life has gone. I was at my father’s bedside as he breathed his last. I watched an intelligent and vibrant man whom I loved dearly waste away over six years to be a mindless and physical wreck, more helpless than a baby, and witnessed him drown in the fluid from his own lungs. My father believed in God but he was not a Christian. I have no doubt that had he had the option of euthanasia, he would have opted for it. Yet he wad denied that because he had the misfortune to live in a country where the laws are based on Judeo/Christian theology. That angers me.
Many countries with a faith-based judicial history take a completely hypocritical view of euthanasia. When an animal is in pain, or ill, with no other recourse, we do the only kind and correct thing and end their suffering. Yet we deny the same to human beings, who being sapient beings, are fully aware of what is happening to them. What psychological torture then must that be? Yet we do this on the basis of a belief system which fewer and fewer nowadays follow or adhere to.
In the final instance our lives are just that; our lives. They are not the property of the state, far less of the church or any other faith. It should be naturally understood, and a human right, therefore for anyone to do with their life what they wish – including ending that life when the quality of it has irretrievably gone.
Nathan Verhelst realised that all too well. Faced daily with the pain of knowing he was not a woman, neither could he physically ever be a full man, he knew that he may endure decades of physical torture. His quality of life was gone, and it was therefore that he decided that life was no longer worth living. He took the only step he could see open, as was his right, and there are none should ever question that. It was his life, not yours.
Goodnight Nathan. Nobody and nothing can hurt you any more sweetheart. xxxx