Acclaimed physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking says he would contemplate ending his own life through assisted suicide if he ever became too much trouble to care for or if he felt he could no longer live a productive life.
"To keep someone alive against their wishes is the ultimate indignity. I would consider assisted suicide only if I were in great pain or felt I had nothing more to contribute but was just a burden to those around me," Hawking told British comedian Dara O’Briain for an upcoming BBC television piece, The Guardian reports.
But the 74-year-old scientist said he'd be "damned if I'm going to die before I have unravelled more of the universe," according to The Telegraph.
Hawking has spoken previously about assisted suicide -- or assisted dying, as it's referred to in the United Kingdom. Last year, both the scientist and Desmond Tutu strongly backed a parliamentary bill that would allow doctors to provide a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients with less than six months to live, Slate reported.
Assisted dying is currently illegal in the U.K.
The issue made headlines in the United States last November when terminally ill Brittney Maynard chose to end her own life under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. Throughout her final months, Maynard became a strong advocate for patients' rights.
"I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms," she wrote in a blog post for CNN.
Britain's director of public prosecutions announced last October that doctors and nurses in the country who help the terminally ill take their own lives would be less likely to face criminal charges.
Hawking, subject of the Oscar-nominated "The Theory of Everything," told the BBC last year that he tried to commit suicide in the 1980s "by not breathing" but "the reflex to breathe was too strong." He currently isn't in any pain, The Telegraph reports, but suffers discomfort sometimes because he's unable to adjust his position.
"We should not take away the freedom of the individual to choose to die," Hawking told the BBC.