Thursday, August 13, 2009

Echo Chamber

Ed Brayton lambasts Investors Business Daily for this quote:

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.

He says:

There's just one tiny little problem with this: Stephen Hawking was born and raised in the UK and has lived there all his life. He teaches at Cambridge. That's in the UK. This ranks up there with the French not having a word for entrepreneur.

The IBD has already corrected the article, and noted the correction (which is crucial to honesty) but I think their editors missed a crucial word:  “Now”.

According to Wikipedia Hawking was diagnosed at the age of 21.  He was born in 1942, and so his diagnosis came in 1963.  Ed and his commenters seem to be assuming that the British NHS has remained unchanged since it’s inception in 1948.  It should be elementary to assume that there have been some significant changes in even the 46 years since Hawking’s diagnosis.

And there are more changes on the way.  Ask yourself:  Are you healthy enough to be denied health care by a government source with no other recourse?

One commenter hits the nail on the head:

Actually, on reflection, I'm going to be scrupulously fair to the Investor's Business Daily. Stephen Hawking, IIRC from a documentary I saw a while back, does not rely solely on the NHS for his treatment. As a wealthy individual (thanks to being a best-selling author), he is in a position where he can employ a live-in nurse to cater to his needs and thus the care he receives is not necessarily typical for a Motor Neurone Disease sufferer in the UK.

He does go on to mention that his own father has no complaints about his care under the NHS.  That’s fantastic, but again the question is “would he get that care if newly diagnosed?”

Honestly, I don’t think Hawking is the best example anyway.  His father was a doctor, and in many ways he was born as part of the upper class.  He went to Oxford, for crying out loud. 

So here’s a question for you intrepid class-warriors out there:  Would a Down Syndrome baby born to an immigrant, low income mother get the same treatment?  If you think the answer is yes, you haven’t been paying attention.