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Stephen Hawking supports assisted suicide

Professor Stephen Hawking says he supports allowing assisted suicide for those with terminal illnesses.

By
KRISTEN BUTLER, UPI.com
Stephen Hawking, cosmologist and professor at the University of Cambridge. (File/UPI/Kevin Dietsch)
Stephen Hawking, cosmologist and professor at the University of Cambridge. (File/UPI/Kevin Dietsch) | License Photo

British cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking has publicly expressed support for allowing people with terminal illnesses the option of assisted suicide.

"We don't let animals suffer, so why humans?"

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Hawking, one of the world's most famous scientists, is also one of the world's most famous cases of a rare progressive motor neuron disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease. Just 5 percent of those with ALS live more than a decade after diagnosis.

When he was diagnosed in 1964, Hawking was given just two years to live. Known for saying "while there's life, there's hope," the 71-year-old learned to adapt to living with his condition.

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"Theoretical physics is one field where being disabled is not a handicap. It is all in the mind," the Cambridge scientist said.

But he still believes other terminally ill people should have choices.

"I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives, and those who help them should be free from prosecution," Hawking said in an interview with the BBC.

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"There must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and are not being pressurised into it or have it done without their knowledge and consent as would have been the case with me."

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Hawking was once put on life support after a bout of pneumonia, and his wife was given the option of turning it off, but that was not something Hawking wanted for himself.

Right-to-die or "death with dignity" advocates have succeeded in passing legislation allowing informed euthanasia or assisted suicide under certain circumstances in several U.S. states. Assisted suicide is illegal in Britain.

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