NHS saved Stephen Hawking’s life

NHS SAVED STEPHEN HAWKING’S LIFE…. Legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking entered the debate over health care reform in an unexpected way recently. The Investor’s Business Daily ran a bizarre editorial, arguing that Democratic proposals would punish the elderly and the disabled. “People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless,” the IBD said.

The publication has run a minor correction, noting that Hawking does, in fact, “live in the U.K.” That’s a start, but it badly misses the point: the IBD‘s argument is that Britain’s socialized system necessarily would have killed Hawking. That’s backwards.

Hugh Muir had a great item on this today.

So Barack Obama is facing the fight of his life (another one) as he attempts to reform the US healthcare system. The “special interests” – doctors, healthcare companies – don’t like it. The “birthers” – crazy types who hope to prove he is not American – smell blood. The danger, says the Investor’s Business Daily, is that he borrows too much from the UK.

“The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof, are legendary. The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror script … 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.”

We say his life is far from worthless, as they do at Addenbrooke’s hospital, Cambridge, where Professor Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, was treated for chest problems in April. As indeed does he. “I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS,” he told us. “I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.” Something here is worthless. And it’s not him.

The Investor’s Business Daily, I’m afraid, is going to need a bigger correction.

It’s worth emphasizing, for those who remain confused and misled, that Democratic reform proposals would not create a British system. The comparison doesn’t even make sense in any substantive way, and the very premise of the IBD attack, which has been widely parroted by the far-right, reflects a fundamental lack of intellectual honesty and seriousness.

But if the right is going to attack the British NHS, it should at least try to be coherent. So far, it’s falling far short.