Stephen Hawking endorses assisted suicide

After 50 years of enduring motor neuron disease, physicist Stephen Hawking, 71, has endorsed assisted suicide -- for other people. “I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their own life and those that help them should be free from prosecution", he said in a moving interview with the BBC this week.

Hawking argued that we should alleviate suffering wherever possible. "We don't let animals suffer, so why humans?" he said.

However, he is aware of the risk of abuse: "there must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressured into it or have it done without their knowledge and consent, as would have been the case with me".

In 1985 Hawking's first wife was asked by doctors whether she wanted to withdraw life support from Hawking after a pneumonia attack. She vehemently refused.

A feature-length documentary about Hawking's life was released on Friday. Hawking hopes that the film will inspire people with disabilities to work around their limitations. “If one is disabled, one should concentrate on the things one can do and not regret the things one cannot do,” he said, adding how he felt his own disability had helped his scientific career. Hawking still goes to work at Cambridge University every day, where he is director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology. 

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