In England, assisted suicide proponent Stephen Hawking said he would consider taking his own life if he felt he was no longer living a productive life or became too much trouble. According to the Daily Telegraph, Hawking said, “I would consider assisted suicide only if I were in great pain or felt I had nothing more to contribute but was just a burden to those around me.”
Hawking is 73-years-old and lives with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is a neurodegenerative disease that effects more than 12,000 people in the United States. Although only 5% of people with the disease live for more than a decade after diagnosis, Hawking discovered his condition when he was 21-years-old.
The BCC reports that prior to 2013, the physicist said that assisted suicide was “a great mistake” and while there’s life, there is hope.” However, now he believes the practice can help those who are suffering, even though he’s not ready to die. He said, “I am damned if I’m going to die before I have unraveled more of the universe.”
In another interview Hawking said that assisted suicide needed to have “safeguards” to protect the disabled community. He explained, “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.”
Currently, assisted suicide is illegal in England but activists are working to pass a bill that would give terminally ill patients the option to take their own life. As LifeNews previously reported, Lord Falconer plans on reintroducing assisted suicide legislation in the next Parliament since they ran out of time before the general election last year.
In 2014, the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old terminally ill cancer-patient legally committed suicide, reignited the assisted suicide debate in the United States. Pro-lifers are adamantly against “Right to Die” legislation, regardless of circumstance because of the dangers it presents for vulnerable communities such as the elderly, disabled and mentally ill. Under this type of legislation, those with mental illness and depression can qualify for lethal prescriptions, as could those who could live indefinitely with basic treatments.
For example, under Oregon’s assisted suicide provision, the most recent official state report shows in the footnotes that a diabetic, persons with respiratory diseases, a person with viral hepatitis, and persons with HIV all obtained lethal prescriptions. These people are a far cry from those we envision as “terminally ill.”
Ann Cupolo Freeman, a board member of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, explained some of the effects assisted suicide legislation could have on the disabled community. She said, “No assisted-suicide ‘safeguard’ can ever protect against coercion. In this era of managed care, will those living with a disability and the seriously ill be more likely offered lethal prescriptions in place of medical treatment? A prescription for 100 Seconal tablets costs far less than most medical treatments, especially considering the cost of long-term care for someone living with a disability.”