Stephen Hawking’s health care and the NHS

I used Stephen Hawking as an example, not of Britain’s failed health care, but of the fact that, under socialized medicine, famous people and politicos always get the gold standard.  Charlie (Colorado) kindly pointed out that I’d erred.  In fact, Hawking got sick before he got famous.  That is an interesting point, since it implies that, even when he didn’t get gold standard care, his treatment under the NHS was still sufficient to keep him alive despite his ALS.  It turns out that the Hawking health story is even more complicated than that.  It doesn’t stand for my argument that he got nomenklatura treatment, at least in the beginning of his illness, but it also doesn’t put a very good face on the NHS either:

Hawking biographers Michael White and John Gribben, in the second edition of their 2003 book, “Stephen Hawking, A Life In Science,” found that back when Hawking was less well-known, NHS wasn’t nearly as good to him.

In the mid-1960s, Hawking’s father became disillusioned with the care Hawking was getting from NHS and took over his son’s treatment himself, doing his own research and prescribing vitamins.

On his own Web site, Hawking recalls that private help was also critical. “I caught pneumonia in 1985,” he says. “I had to have a tracheotomy operation. After this, I had to have 24-hour nursing care. This was made possible by grants from several foundations.”

White and Gribben describe what that meant: “The best the National Health Service could offer was seven hours’ nursing help a week . . . They would have to pay for private nursing. It was obvious they would have to find financial support from somewhere.

“Jane (his wife) wrote letter after letter to charitable organizations around the world and called upon the help of family friends in approaching institutions that might be interested in assisting them.

“Help arrived from an American foundation aware of Hawking’s work and international reputation, which agreed to pay £50,000 a year toward the costs of nursing. Shortly afterward several other charitable organizations on both sides of the Atlantic followed suit with smaller donations.

I hope you caught the irony there — it was Americans who stepped in and saved Hawkings’ life when the NHS was willing to abandon his care.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Kim Priestap

    Good catch, Book. That it was an American foundation that came to the rescue to save Hawking is, to me, unsurprising.

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    And none the less, Hawking says he’s been well treated by NHS, too.

    You’ve got to wonder sometimes.

  • Bookworm

    I don’t know, Charlie. NHS still figures in his health care, so he may not want to bite the hand that partially feeds him.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I suspect that Steven Hawking is famous and wealthy enough to take care of his own health needs at this point. I doubt the depends on NHS and, even if so, would get royal treatment due to his fame.

  • Ymarsakar

    Book, many Brits will say that they are happy with NHS, that it is better than America’s system.

    This is predicated upon a basic principle. People prefer to be slaves rather than free men, if slavery is more comfortable and luxurious than liberty. It takes a certain internal fortitude, ala American frontiersman and settlers, to reach out into the unknown and risk death and disfigurement for some ‘tangible quality’ called a better life.

    Most people don’t want a better life. They just want a secure life. They aren’t the same things.

    People fear change. obama promised change with no sacrifices required, that the rich would be ones making sacrifices. He asked the whites to sacrifice their guilt and white privilege, something they were already willing and eager to do.

    This Hawking incident demonstrates that our principles and political instincts were right, are right, and will be right. Human nature does not change.

    The Brits are confused over why Americans are protesting the NHS or national healthcare by Obama. They don’t get it. They don’t want to get it. They are afraid to get it. Because they are afraid.

    This is Stockholm Syndrome writ large. This is a woman going back to an abusive husband over and over again, because she feels safer in the relationship than trying to get out of the relationship.

    This is the real reason why NHS is permanent. It changes people’s hearts and minds, not just their healthcare through some taxation and funds. It is not a government policy. It is a system of mass engineering human behavior and emotions. How are you going to change that with laws? You can’t. It can only be undermined and changed with counter-insurgency or insurgency.

  • Ymarsakar

    Hannan is, more or less, a pariah in his own Conservative party. The Conservative Party leadership in Britain supports NHS, wishes to expand it.

    Hannan is well spoken and a patriot, but he already knows the truth. Once Britain kicked our Churchill and replaced him with their beloved Socialism after WWII, Britain was going to fall until they hit rock bottom. And then they’ll fall still further by digging a deeper hole there.