Stephen Hawking defends ‘evil’ NHS
The British scientist says he would not be here today if it was not for tax-funded healthcare
Stephen Hawking, the British scientist who has lived with motor neurone disease since 1963, has been dragged into America's increasingly ugly row over Barack Obama's proposed £1 trillion overhaul of healthcare provision.
Hawking has defended Britain's tax-funded National Health System after he was held up by a US financial newspaper as an example of why the NHS should not be used as a blueprint for the reforms. In a recent editorial, Investors Business Daily claimed: "People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."
The Cambridge professor, who is of course British despite speaking with an American-accented vocoder, 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." Hawking was treated by an NHS hospital as recently as April, when he was admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge for chest infections. Investors Business Weekly has since amended its article, removing any mention of the scientist.
The NHS has been the subject of several outlandish attacks by Republicans and anti-reform campaigners in their bid to defeat Obama's healthcare reforms. Republicans launched a slickly produced TV campaign this week branding the NHS 'evil' and 'Orwellian'.
Last week the most senior Republican on the Senate finance committee, Chuck Grassley, claimed that his ailing Democratic colleague Senator Edward Kennedy would be left to die untreated from a brain tumour in Britain because he would supposedly be too old for treatment. "I've heard several senators say that Ted Kennedy with a brain tumour, being 77 years old as opposed to being 37 years old, if he were in England, would not be treated for his disease, because... when you get to be 77, your life is considered less valuable under those systems."
Hawking had the chance to continue his defence of the NHS further this afternoon when President Obama was due to present him with the presidential medal of freedom in Washington. The Brief History of Time author was among 16 people due to receive America's highest civilian honour, along with Ted Kennedy, Billie Jean King and Desmond Tutu. ·
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