Hawking backs right to die for the terminally ill
Professor Stephen Hawking has spoken out for the first time in favour of assisted suicide for people with terminal diseases.
Professor Hawking, who has motor neuron disease (MND), had previously been less supportive of an individual's right to choose when to end their own life, saying that "there is always hope".
The 71-year-old cosmologist asked: "We don't let animals suffer, so why humans?"
He continued: "I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives and those who help them should be free from prosecution.
"But there must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressurised into it or have it done without their knowledge or consent, as would have been the case with me."
Professor Hawking was diagnosed with MND, which is incurable, 50 years ago and was told he had just two or three years to live.
Following a bout of pneumonia in 1985, he was placed on a life-support machine, which his first wife, Jane Hawking, had the option to switch off.
Recovering from the disease, Professor Hawking went on to complete 'A Brief History of Time', which sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. (© Independent News Service)