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Re: Hawking and the NHS


Another important point from a reader:

As for Hawking’s response to you, it makes a huge illogical leap, a leap founded in the usual non-American belief that American coverage consists of not treating anyone at all. And I wish you’d pointed out this flaw that you undoubtedly saw as well instead of starting out your response, “This is undoubtedly true.”

Because the opening claim in his reponse of:

“I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”

assumes that NHS or no treatment are the two options, which of course is ridiculous. We can’t say for sure how a non-NHS British health system would have addressed Hawking’s ALS as we don’t live in that alternate universe (and neither does Hawking) but I think it’s up to Hawking or anyone endorsing his claim to prove or at least argue that in the absence of an NHS specifically, large amounts of high quality treatment would have been unavailable to him. Instead he just asserts as much, although it’s that very point which is to be proven.

Indeed. This is, of course, the answer to the “so you’d just leave them to die in the streets, then, would you?” point that is used so plonkingly by proponents of government-run health care. Of course we wouldn’t. Civil society has developed over the years a huge array of profitable yet charitable means to deliver health-care to the poorest and to the worst-afflicted. Those who can afford to pay for health care always subsidize those who can’t, by one means or another. And having a profit motive involved also ensures health-care innovation in a way that government-run systems cannot. It would surprise me greatly if Professor Hawking has not benefited from innovation that originated as a result of the profit motive on one side of the Atlantic or the other (Britain’s pharmaceutical industry, for instance, is world-class). I am also sure that, in the absence of the NHS, Cambridge University would still have a very good medical set-up associated with it. And there’s every chance that it would be better.


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