Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hawking Up a Hairball

Investor's Business Daily recently made a boo-boo with respect to the health history of Stephen Hawking, and the nasty effects of living in a system of socialized medicine. The story, the half-assed correction, and Hawking's response, have been all over the place over the past day and a half, and I was not intending to pick it up. However, via Krugman, I hereby pass on the bestest response evar to that story.

Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught the whopper and it was picked up by other outlets, including Talking Points Memo.

Here’s the original line, which is now stricken from the editorial:

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.

This is sick, dishonest stuff, so it’s sweet that Hawking himself calls it out, telling a TPM blogger “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.”

But IBD’s correction creates another problem. Here is its entire text:

Editor’s Note: This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK.

It has removed the Hawking reference from the story (even, apparently, in Factiva, which doesn’t have it either), but short-arms the correction, which should have read something like: “This version corrects the original editorial which falsely implied that physicist Stephen Hawking would be dead as a doornail if he lived in the UK and had to use the National Health. Hawking has lived in the UK his entire life, and as of press time, is still alive.

In my dream world they’d also tack on an “Also, this basically kills the premise of our entire editorial, which never should have been written. We resign in disgrace.”

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