Stephen Hawking’s sentiments on the National Health Service have re-emerged following his death today, March 14, at the age of 76.
The theoretical physicist had fought motor neurone disease since 1963 in an incredible display of science and healthcare.
A staunch supporter of the NHS, Hawking stood up for it whenever the opportunity arose.
He told The Guardian:
I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.
Amid plans to privatise the service last year, Hawking slated the politicians he held responsible during a speech at the Royal Society of Medicine. He tore into ministers for funding cuts and pay caps, saying it was heading toward a ‘US-style insurance system.’
He said of health secretary Jeremy Hunt:
Speaking as a scientist, cherrypicking evidence is unacceptable. When public figures abuse scientific argument, citing some studies but suppressing others, to justify policies that they want to implement for other reasons, it debases scientific culture.
Hawking died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of the morning.
He was known for his work on black holes and relativity, penning the groundbreaking A Brief History Of Time in 1988.
Hawking defied medical opinion, despite suffering from a form motor neurone disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
When the theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author was diagnosed in 1963, doctors gave him just two years to live.
His children Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement:
We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.
He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.
His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.
He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’
We will miss him forever.
Leo McCluskey, an associate professor of neurology and medical director of the ALS Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, told Scientific American:
One thing that is highlighted by this man’s course is that this is an incredibly variable disorder in many ways. On average people live two to three years after diagnosis.
But that means that half the people live longer, and there are people who live for a long, long time. Life expectancy turns on two things: the motor neurons running the diaphragm—the breathing muscles. So the common way people die is of respiratory failure.
And the other thing is the deterioration of swallowing muscles, and that can lead to malnutrition and dehydration.
If you don’t have these two things, you could potentially live for a long time—even though you’re getting worse. What’s happened to him is just astounding. He’s certainly an outlier.
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The ALS Association aims to discover treatments and a cure for ALS and to serve, advocate for and empower, people affected by ALS to live their lives to the fullest. You can donate here.
Rest in Power, Stephen.