Professor Stephen Hawking has defended the NHS after its severe criticism during the American political debate over health care reforms.
The physicist spoke up for the NHS after the Republican Right claimed it was 'evil' and 'Orwellian' in a direct attack on Barack Obama's plans to overhaul health care in the U.S.
Critics of the president have said his plans would introduce a 'socialist' system like Britain's.
Prof Hawkin, who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease, said: '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.'
He was in Washington last night to be awarded America's highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
An American newspaper claimed: 'People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.'
However Professor Hawking - who as recently as April was treated in an NHS hospital - was quick to rubbish the claim.