NO HEALTH CARE FOR HAWKING OR KENNEDY
The lie: Stephen Hawking (who has Lou Gehrig's disease) and U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (who has brain cancer) would not receive treatment in Britain, which has a government-run health-care system.
The liars: An editorial in Investor's Business Daily on July 31 claimed: "People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service [NHS] would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa -- the senior-most Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which must approve health-care bills -- said Aug. 5 during a radio interview with Iowa City's KCJJ, "Ted Kennedy -- with a brain tumor, being 77 years old as opposed to being 37 years old -- if he were in England, would not be treated for his disease because ... when you get to be 77, your life is considered less valuable under those systems."
The debunking: In both cases, this is nonsense.
Hawking, who is British, receives intensive treatment for his degenerative motor neuron disease at a local Cambridge hospital. Upon hearing the rumors of his non-treatment, the prizewinning theoretical physicist told The Guardian, "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."
In Kennedy's case, it is true that Britain assesses the cost-effectiveness of procedures and medicines before deciding whether to prescribe them. And the NHS does deny some procedures and drugs based on considerations such as the severity of a patient's sickness, the cost of treatment, and the quality of life afforded. But doctors and NHS officials have stressed that Britons with Kennedy's condition, regardless of age, would receive aggressive treatment, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
The chief executive of Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which determines the rationing system, told The Guardian, "It is neither true nor is it anything you could extrapolate from anything we've ever recommended" that Kennedy would be denied treatment by the NHS.
Thus far, neither Kennedy nor Grassley have commented since Grassley's initial remark.