(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Stephen Hawking supports right to die for terminally ill

"Those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives"

Katie McDonough
September 18, 2013 12:57AM (UTC)

British theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking once called assisted dying "a great mistake," but now says he supports the right of terminally ill people to end their lives.

Hawking, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease at the age of 21, addressed the issue in an interview with the BBC, saying, "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 that help them should be free from prosecution. We don't let animals suffer, so why humans?"


He adds, however, that he believes there should be safeguards put in place to ensure that the person's consent is absolute. As the Guardian notes, Hawking was put on life support after falling ill with pneumonia in 1985, and his first wife was given the choice to turn it off.

It's an experience that has informed his views, he says: "There must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressurized into it or have it done without their knowledge or consent as would have been the case with me.


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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