Nathan Verhelst died yesterday afternoon after being legally euthanized in Belgium. Being born into the wrong body must be a terrible burden to carry and a sex change operation seems the only alternative to a happier life. But it's a drastic and very painful step to take.
Nathan's therapy started with hormone therapy in 2009, followed by a mastectomy. Then last year, he had an operation to construct a penis, but it went wrong. "I was ready to celebrate my new birth but when I looked in the mirror, I was disgusted with myself" he said. "My breasts did not match my expectations and my new penis had symptoms of rejection.....I do not want to be a monster."
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium if certain conditions are met. His doctor, Professor Distelmans said his choice had nothing to do with
'fatigue of life'. After his patient completed six months counselling, he was satisfied that he was suffering 'constant and unbearable psychological pain' and his decision to euthanize was legal under the law.
Belgium law is different to that of the Swiss Dignitas Clinic who only offer "assisted suicide" which means the patient must administer the deadly drug themselves to end their life.
Suicides among transexuals and those who have had sexual reassignment surgery is as high as 31 per cent. And you can understand why when you read about what's involved for doctors to reproduce a fully functioning penis.
Genital reconstructive procedures use either the clitoris, which is enlarged by hormones, or rely on free tissue grafts from the arm, the thigh or belly and an erectile prosthetic. In either case, the urethra can be rerouted through the phallus to allow urination through the reconstructed penis. The labia majora are united to form a scrotum where prosthetic testicles can be inserted.
If you look carefully at the picture, you can see scars on Nathan's arms from where the grafts were taken.
This case will send passionate anti-euthanasia devotees into a spin. They will use it to accuse doctors of performing a terrible crime and try every tactic in their power to stop it. Australia and the UK still won't have a bar of euthanasia and this contentious issue continues to rage.