British scientist Stephen Hawking has spoken out in favor of assisted suicide, stating that it would be better to allow those who are terminally ill to choose to end their own lives rather than force them to suffer.

Hawking, who at age 21 was diagnosed with the debilitating motor neuron disease and given only three years to live, argued to the BBC that Britain should take steps to legalize assisted suicide, provided that the appropriate safeguards were in place to prevent coercion or fraud. The cosmologist, 71, far surpassed his initial life expectancy estimates and now communicates through a computerized vocal system.

"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 while promoting the upcoming documentary on his life, “Hawking.”

"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."

In the interview, Hawking recounted one instance in which he contracted pneumonia and was placed into a life support machine. His wife was given the option of turning the machine off, and while he stated that he did not want to die, he thought it was only right that his wife should have the option.  

“Hawking” premieres in Britain on Sept. 20.

Watch Stephen Hawking’s full interview with the BBC below.

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