People living with terminal illnesses should have the freedom to choose assisted suicide, renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking said.
Hawking, 71, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at 21 and is bound to a wheelchair, has had a change of heart about assisted suicide, Reuters reported.
Hawking once called assisted suicide a "great mistake" and that "there is always hope" for the terminally ill.
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On Tuesday, he said that people should have the right to die if that is their wish.
"I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives, and those who help them should be free from prosecution," Hawking told the BBC. "There must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and are not being pressurized into it or have it done without their knowledge and consent as would have been the case with me." (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24123679)
Assisted suicide is illegal in Britain and is highly debated in other countries.
Right-to-die advocates argue that terminally-ill people are capable of making that decision to die with dignity. Opponents say that assisted suicide leaves vulnerable people at risk of being bullied or pushed into it by relatives and others who may not have their best interests at hand.
In America, Oregon, Vermont and Washington permit physician-assisted suicide, while Montana permits it with a court order. Thirty-nine states have passed laws specifically outlawing assisted suicide of any kind.
Hawking is one of the world's leading scientists, best known for his work on black holes and as the author of the international bestseller "A Brief History of Time.”
The documentary on his life, "Hawking," by Vertigo Films, will be released in Britain on Sept. 20. The documentary was shown at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas in March.
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