Thursday, September 26, 2013

A very mistaken prognosis

Professor Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at 21 and told he had two or three years to live.

He's now 71 - which shows how wrong men (even professional men) can be. He still has motor neurone disease and depends on a wheelchair, but he has lived a purposeful and fulfilled life.

The scientist and author told the BBC: "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. 

"But there must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressurised into it or have it done without their knowledge or consent, as would have been the case with me." (When Hawking had a bout of pneumonia, his first wife was given the option of having his life support turned off. She refused.)

Stephen Hawking being Stephen Hawking, his quote will be widely disseminated. But what needs to be borne in mind is that the great proportion of politicians, doctors and activists for the disabled are opposed to assisted suicide - largely because of the danger to vulnerable patients and the very real possibility of abuse.

Medical organisations clearly opposed to assisted suicide are the World Medical Association, the British Medical Association, the Association for Palliative Medicine, the British Geriatric Society and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Disability organisations opposed to a change in the law are SCOPE, Disability Rights UK, Not Dead Yet UK and the UK Disabled People's Council.

Proponents of assisted killing, we ought to remember, are vociferous, persistent, but still a minority.

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