Stephen Hawking: I'd Consider Assisted Suicide
Physicist says he'd think about it if he ever became a burden or was in great pain
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2015 12:37 PM CDT
Keeping someone alive against their wishes is the "ultimate indignity," Hawking says.   (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

(Newser) – The man who showed the world exactly why he was meant to live despite a devastating diagnosis 52 years ago now says he'd think about assisted suicide—but only under certain circumstances. In an interview set to be broadcast on BBC One in mid-June, Stephen Hawking says, "I would consider assisted suicide only if I were in great pain or felt I had nothing more to contribute but was just a burden to those around me," the Telegraph reports. "To keep someone alive against their wishes is the ultimate indignity." Hawking has spoken before about his support for assisted suicide, notably in a BBC interview last year in which he said, "We should not take away the freedom of the individual to choose to die" and admitted he had tried to kill himself once by not breathing after a tracheostomy ("the reflex to breathe was too strong," he noted).

Assisted suicide is still illegal in the UK, though the Guardian notes the Department of Public Prosecutions wouldn't likely prosecute family or friends who helped a loved one end his or her life. But the world doesn't have to worry about losing Hawking just yet: The 73-year-old says he's not really in pain, just discomfort when he wants to adjust positions, the Telegraph notes. And he tells the program's interviewer that he's still got a lot to offer: "I am damned if I'm going to die before I have unraveled more of the universe," he says, per the Guardian. But the paper notes Hawking also advocates for euthanasia safeguards and has pointed out he thought he wanted to die in 1985 after a particularly brutal bout with pneumonia; his then-wife Jane wouldn't disconnect his life support. His best-selling A Brief History of Time came out three years later. (Competent patients in Canada can now seek a doctor to help them end their own lives.)