Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Give that man a medal

Good to see Stephen Hawking getting a Presidential Medal of Freedom from the Obama administration.
Obama said of the recipients of the honours; "What unites them is a belief... that our lives are what we make of them, that no barriers of race, gender or physical infirmity can restrain the human spirit, and that the truest test of a person's life is what we do for one another."


It must be particularly welcome because Hawking has been used and abused recently by the Investors Business Daily who, in the course of an anti-health reform rant, said "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."

Of course, they've taken that bit out now but the problem is obvious. Not only does Hawking live in the same town as me (Cambridge, UK, where I sometimes spot him wheeling around) and has had top notch care from the NHS all his life, the idea that in the UK, unlike the US, the health care system evaluates your worth before treating you is the exact opposite of the truth.

It is the US where your worth literally makes the difference between life and death. What's interesting is the IBD did not change their editorial position of spouting rubbish about the NHS, they just edited out the bit where they made themselves look like fools.

Hawking has now had the opportunity to wade in to defend our national health system rather than one based on rationing by wealth. "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS, I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."
All treatment offered to him regardless of his ability to pay. Can the US system that rations the poorest say the same? Of course not. Maybe those Democrats who are wavering about reform might learn a lesson from the great man - it's not the size of your wallet that matters but the size of your ambition.

1 comment:

Strategist said...

On a tourist visit to Cambridge on a cold winter's day, as dusk fell, I saw Hawking parked up on what I believe is called the Mathematical Bridge, alone, looking out over the mist forming over the Cam.

A magic moment I shan't forget.

Even if he isn't really the greatest living genius we are all told he is, his triumph over his condition is true greatness. Though not usually a big fan of alpha male behaviour, I was nevertheless impressed when he left his wife for his young PA - not bad work for a totally paralysed dude.