Shanna’s Battle: The Failing Health System and the Quest for Dignity

2023-09-22 13:15:00

Shanna Wouters, a 38-year-old Belgian, suffers from a connective tissue disease that causes very intense pain. Faced with a health system that she describes as “failing”, the young woman “sees no other solution than to request euthanasia”.

The testimony that Shanna gave to our colleagues at Nieuwsblad is particularly difficult. Suffering from Ehlers Danloss syndrome, she explains that she does not have sufficient income to be able to pay medical expenses and live with dignity. “There comes a time when a person must choose between continuing to endure inhumane suffering or dying with dignity. I asked for this last option because I no longer see a way out,” Shanna confides sadly.

The health of the thirty-year-old has deteriorated significantly in recent years. Now in a wheelchair, she receives high doses of painkillers. “They give me morphine and valium because otherwise my body cramps. My body is losing weight. Over the past year I have lost 25 pounds and I barely sleep because of the pain. I haven’t been able to work for several years and I need nursing care every day,” says Shanna.

“I no longer have the energy to fight against windmills”

And in addition to leading a heavy fight against the disease, the Belgian must also fight with the “failing health system”. “Since January, I have received around 20,000 euros from my personal budget per year. Although I was on the waiting list since 2017, I only received my budget this year. Moreover, it only represents half of the allocated amount,” laments Shanna. “The budget I receive is far from sufficient to meet my real needs,” she adds.

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All these difficulties mean that Shanna is at the end of her rope, and no longer sees a way out. “I loved living a lot, but when you have to fight to survive every day, there comes a point where it stops. This is why I am in the process of putting in place the necessary documents for my euthanasia,” confides the Belgian heavily. “My mother has a lot of difficulty accepting this decision, but she also understands my choice,” she adds.

The young woman remains convinced that with better care and more resources, she would be in better health today. “I no longer have the energy to fight against windmills. By sharing my story, I want to show the government that we are not numbers but that we have a face. I hope they will then understand that something fundamental must change. So that this finally stops,” confides Shanna again.

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