The British physisist spoke out after Republican politicians lambasted the NHS as “evil” in their effort to stop President Barack Obama’s reforms of US health care which will widen availability of treatment but at a cost to higher earners who will pay higher insurance premiums.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS,” he said. “I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”
Prof Hawking, who has had Lou Gehrig’s disease for 40 years, was in Washington to be awarded the America’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He received emergency treatment in April at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge. An American newspaper subsequently used Prof Hawking as an example of the deficiencies of the NHS. “People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless,” it claimed.
A Twitter campaign defending the NHS emerged to give an outlet for protests against the controversy that arose out of Mr Obama’s drive to reform American healthcare. Users of the micro-blogging service have been posting messages in support of the British health care system.
Urbanitejewelry, an American in Britain, wrote: “I’m an american in the UK. Had a bad health scare a few months back and was well taken care of, no money involved. incredible.”