Why did they say Steven Hawking wouldn't have survived in the UK?

Last summer, there was an editorial published in Investors Business Daily that was critical of health care reform because: “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, that’s a preposterous statement, because Steven Hawking WAS born in the U.K.

The original article is here (they removed the above statement, although at least they did replace it was an update admitting their mistake).

You can see more details about the article before they corrected it here:

What I want to know – can anyone think of why the author made that assertion? Was he actually trying to say something else that was less obviously false (like maybe the NHS was created or modified after Steven Hawking was born, and the author is asserting Hawking wouldn’t have been alive under the new system?)

Is there any possible way that statement could be interpreted that wasn’t a completely idiotic? Is there any possible alternative interpretation that simply didn’t come out?

What’s really stupid is he didn’t develop symptoms until later in life.

From Wiki.

Nope. It’s just as moronic as it seems.

FWIW, posters on Free Republic love to cite IBD editorials positively, a sign that their slant is, um, slanted.

In their defense, he doesn’t have a British accent…

DO feed the troll?

I expect they said it because they thought it would damage the case for health care reform in the US.
Despite being untrue, it probably did, so it wasn’t stupid of them at all.

I always thought the damage it did was more to give people already against it another stupid reason to believe it. It only hurt in that it made it that much harder to convince them.

The thought process of the person who said that quote was the following assumptions:

  1. Government health care systems are willing to sacrifice anyone whose care would cost too much money.

  2. Private health care systems are not willing to sacrifice someone regardless of how much their care would cost.

  3. Stephen Hawking is an American.

  4. Stephen Hawking was in the same health situation as he is now right from birth.

  5. Since the American health care system is a private system and the British health care system is a government one, Hawking would have been allowed to die as a baby if he were British.

It’s pretty easy to pick holes in all of those assumptions, but that’s the assumptions that the person who said the quote had.

Can I just point out that, foolish as the original quote is, it makes no mention of where, or in what condition, Hawking was born?

Their suggestion was that, as a disabled adult, he would be denied treatment in the UK now.

I’m fairly certain the person quoted had no idea that Hawking was British, or that he developed his condition as an adult.

The first point is obvious, yes. The second may be true, but there’s no way to tell from the article as it was written, and I don’t see that it’s relevant: the writer’s assertion was that severely disabled adults in the UK are denied treatment based on the severity of their disabilities. When Hawking developed his condition isn’t mentioned at all, and doesn’t affect the argument – he was used as an illustration of someone who would be effectively left to “curl up in a corner and die” based on his current condition.

It looks like the author was doing what we call a “whoosh” on his employers/readers, or what Stephen Colbert calls gettin’ down with truthiness. It is actually quite witty.

I’ve wondered this as well. I can’t understand how that statement could have been written, checked over, edited and printed in a major editorial without anyone noticing how stupid it is.

Typical anti-healthcare propaganda. The critics of a universal healthcare system routinely blow things out of proportion, or just out-and-out lie about the healthcare systems of other countries. The amount of total BS that I heard about “the Canadian system” was outrageous, and none of it bore any resemblance to reality.

That’s Investor’s Business Daily for you. What a bizarre newspaper. Their straight reporting of business news and the stock market is among the best out there. But their editorials are from the loony right wing fringe.

Hmm, interesting coincidence.

I just caught part of a physics documentary and they have video of Hawking lecturing or giving a presentation in the 1970s. I was surprised to see him (although in a wheelchair) speaking normally and having a decent degree of controlled movement with his arms. First time I realized his disease must have been progressive.

I believe that his speaking problems are not from a progressive deterioration of the disease, at least not directly.

Some years ago, he had an episode where he was choking, and had to be given an emergency tracheotomy (with improvised instruments, even), cutting a hole into his throat before he choked to death. During this, his larynx was damaged, so that he was no longer able to speak. After that, someone developed the first version of the machine he has where he can type things that the machine then speaks for him.

Besides the obvious, this might also be due to the jingoistic idea that all great scientists must be American. Hawing is a great scientist, therefore he is American. It is similar to the claim that our private drug system is responsible for all advances in medicine, when about half the Nobel Laureates in Medicine for the past 20 years are foreign. (I had the exact number in a GD thread where this came up.)

Anyhow, since this is GQ, moronic probably nails it.

Which of course, is not true. Hawking himself responded to this ridiculous editorial, saying that if it were not for Britain’s health care system, he would not have survived.

Hawking was 21 when he was diagnosed and was told he’d live 2 to 3 more years. He’ll turn 68 next week. According to wikipedia, “survival for more than 10 years after diagnosis is uncommon for ALS” and Hawking’s is " the most protracted case ever documented."

Loony and right wing, maybe, but for a major national newspaper which has won Pulitzer prizes to suggest something as idiotic as Stephen Hawking being American, and then to use it as a key example in one of its most important editorials of the year? Don’t editors lose their jobs over things like that?

Also, did the paper ever apologize or print a correction?