Paralympian Marieke Vervoort uses euthanasia to end her life aged 40

Gold medal winning Paralympian Marieke Vervoort has ended her own life through euthanasia at the age of 40.

The Belgian athlete, who won gold and silver medals at the Paralympics in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, had an incurable degenerative muscle disease which caused constant pain, seizures and paralysis in her legs, and severely limited her ability to sleep.

The athlete previous said she was contemplating the step, having signed papers in her native Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, in 2008. Doing so allowed doctors to help her end her life when she felt the time was right.

Speaking about her decision after the Rio Paralympics, she said: "I have my (euthanasia) papers in my hand, but I'm still enjoying every little moment.

"When the moment comes when I have more bad days than good days, then I have my euthanasia papers, but the time is not there yet."

Marieke Vervoort won a Silver medal at the Rio Paralympic Games. Credit: AP

Her career saw her win gold in the T52 100m wheelchair race and a silver medal in the T52 200m wheelchair race.

At the Rio Paralympics she claimed silver in the T51/52 400m and bronze in T51/52 100m.

Her death was confirmed in a statement from her home city of Diest.

The statement said: "On Tuesday 22 October 2019, Marieke Vervoort, 'our Wielemie', passed away.

"Marieke, born on May 10, 1979, suffered from progressive muscle disease.

"Despite her physical limitations, she worked out an impressive sports career.

"Marieke was 40 years old.

"Marieke is Paralympic champion, Grand Officer in the Crown Order and holder of numerous national and international awards and decorations.

"Marieke opted for euthanasia a few years ago and responded to her choice on Tuesday evening."