In an recent interview, famed physicist Stephen Hawking proclaimed that assisted suicide is not off the table. He’s in no rush to do so, however.
“I am damned if I’m going to die before I have unravelled more of the universe,” he assured, the Telegraph reported.
But since the option is apparently far off, Hawking also made a point to discuss what life is like with ALS, a motor neurone disorder that has gradually stolen is health since he was diagnosed at 21.
Stephen is unable to walk or talk, famously speaking through a speech synthesizer, and that seems to put a barrier between him and the world he is so fascinated by. Most of all, it makes his days pretty lonely.
“At times I get very lonely because people are afraid to talk to me or don’t wait for me to write a response. I’m shy and tired at times. I find it difficult to talk to people I don’t know.”
Stephen Hawking has been married twice; his first marriage was immortalized in the critically-acclaimed film The Theory of Everything, and his second is to Elaine Mason. He has three children, Robert, Lucy, and Timothy and grandchildren.
For a man whose earlier years weren’t marred by disability, Hawking has the memory of being able-bodied. Interviewer Dara O’Briain asked just what he missed the most about life before ALS confined him to a wheelchair.
“I would like to be able to swim again. When my children were young, I missed not being able to play with them physically.”
It’s a heartbreaking detail that makes it hard not to sympathize with Hawking’s straightforward admission that assisted suicide is still an option … down the road.
Stephen has been an avid supporter of a terminally ill person’s right to die, should their pain and suffering be too hard to bear. But suicide isn’t always the answer in the moment; Stephen isn’t in pain right now, though frequently uncomfortable, and still feels like he has much to contribute to the world.
In 1985, he faced the option of suicide during a bout of pneumonia, the Washington Post reported, but his wife, Jane, refused to disconnect her husband from life support. It was a good thing she did — he recovered and later penned A Brief History of Time. That’s why the right-to-die argument must come with some caution.
“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 and consent.”
But if — and only — the pain becomes too much, or he becomes a burden to his family, assisted suicide is how he plans to find relief.
“To keep someone alive against their wishes is the ultimate indignity.”
[Photo Courtesy David Silverman/Getty Images]