Celebrity Fitness: Stephen Hawking’s nurse, 61, of 8 years is struck off after probe finds she ‘failed to provide the care he deserved’ – as world-famous scientist’s family tell of relief that ‘others will not have to go through what they suffered’

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Celebrity Fitness: Stephen Hawking’s nurse, 61, of 8 years is struck off after probe finds she ‘failed to provide the care he deserved’ – as world-famous scientist’s family tell of relief that ‘others will not have to go through what they suffered’

Celebrity Fitness:

The former nurse of Professor Stephen Hawking has been struck off after a professional standards panel found she failed to provide appropriate care to the world famous scientist.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said Patricia Dowdy ‘failed to provide the standards of good, professional care that we expect and Professor Hawking deserved’. 

Details were witheld from the public with the hearing being held in private to protect Mrs Dowdy’s health and to keep private details of the professor’s private life.

However, charges against Mrs Dowdy, who worked for the Hawking family for 15 years included financial misconduct, dishonesty and not providing appropriate care.

Before his death in March 2018, Dowdy was often seen by his side.

The nurse worked for the family over a seventeen year period, firstly between between 1999 and 2004 and later from July 2013 until her suspension by the NMC on March 3, 2016.  

However, the nurse was handed an interim suspension in March 2016 over her care of the theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who wrote ‘A Brief History of Time’. 

The hearing was expected to last until March 21 but she was struck off, with the news being announced today. 

The Mail on Sunday, which first reported the story, said the family of Prof Hawking had lodged a complaint which prompted the investigation into Mrs Dowdy. 

Patricia Dowdy (centre) and Stephen Hawking were seen together during his public appearances as she cared for him. However, her practice has now been slammed 

Mrs Dowdy was not present at the NMC hearings and neither was her solicitor, Ian Persaud, according to NMC documents. The NMC deals with ‘fitness to practice’ and not criminal proceedings. 

Rebecca Richardson, who presented the case for the NMC, said at the outset that the hearing should be held in private to prevent the identification of Prof Hawking.

But even after his name was made public in relation to the case, it continued in private.

The regulator has come under fire in recent days for deciding to hold its sessions on the case in private, barring journalists and other members of the public from attending. 

The NMC documents said: ‘Ms Richardson submitted that the allegations against Mrs Dowdy are such that details of Patient A’s medical condition, his care and other personal needs, will all need to be openly discussed, as will details relating to his professional engagements and personal life.

‘Mrs Dowdy is well known to have been Patient A’s nurse. Ms Richardson submitted that publication of any information identifying both Mrs Dowdy and the details of the allegations against her, and/or the publication of any information relating to Patient A’s condition and personal life, could easily and foreseeably lead to Patient A being identified, even if his name is not openly mentioned in the hearing.’

The family of Professor Hawking called for the review of the nurse over his care 

She said the NMC was committed to maintaining the anonymity of patients even after they had died.

‘Ms Richardson submitted that Patient A’s right to anonymity, and his family’s right to privacy, outweighed the public interest in a public hearing,’ the documents added.

Ms Richardson also told the panel that all of the charges would potentially require open discussion of Patient A’s life and care needs ‘or, failing this, Mrs Dowdy’s own health, to which she was also entitled to privacy.’  

Speaking after her suspension the Hawkings said they were relieved the ‘traumatic’ ordeal was over. 

The NMC said the charges included financial misconduct, dishonesty, not providing appropriate care, failing to cooperate with the NMC and not having the correct qualifications.

Prof Hawking died in March last year at the age of 76.

Matthew McClelland, director of fitness to practise at the NMC, said: ‘The panel has found Mrs Dowdy failed to provide the standards of good, professional care that we expect and Professor Hawking deserved.

George Osborne is seen with Dowdy and the professor at an event

‘As a result, Mrs Dowdy will no longer be able to practice as a nurse.

‘As the public rightly expects, in serious cases such as this – where a nurse has failed in their duty of care and has not been able to evidence to the panel that they have learned from their mistakes and be fit to practise – we will take action.

‘We have remained in close contact with the Hawking family throughout this case and I am grateful to them – as they approach the anniversary of Professor Hawking’s death – and others for sharing their concerns with us.

‘My thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.’

A spokesperson for the family said; ‘The Hawking family are relieved this traumatic ordeal has now concluded and that as a result of the verdict, others will not have to go through what they suffered from this individual. 

‘We want to thank the NMC for their thorough investigation.’ 

Professor Hawking, one of the most renowned scientists in his field, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1964 at the age of 22 and given just a few years to live.

The father-of-three was later confined to a wheelchair and relied upon a computer to communicate, but continued to travel the world to present lectures and further scientific knowledge. 

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‘Medical miracle’ Stephen Hawking defied the odds for 55 years

Stephen Hawking was one of the world’s most acclaimed cosmologists, a medical miracle, and probably the galaxy’s most unlikely superstar celebrity.

After being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease in 1964 at the age of 22, he was given just a few years to live.

Yet against all odds Professor Hawking celebrated his 70th birthday nearly half a century later as one of the most brilliant and famous scientists of the modern age.

Despite being wheelchair-bound, almost completely paralysed and unable to speak except through his trademark voice synthesiser, he wrote a plethora of scientific papers that earned him comparisons with Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton.

At the same time he embraced popular culture with enthusiasm and humour, appearing in TV cartoon The Simpsons, starring in Star Trek and providing the voice-over for a British Telecom commercial that was later sampled on rock band Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell album.

His rise to fame and relationship with his first wife, Jane, was dramatised in a 2014 film, The Theory Of Everything, in which Eddie Redmayne put in an Oscar-winning performance as the physicist battling with a devastating illness.

He was best known for his work on black holes, the mysterious infinitely dense regions of compressed matter where the normal laws of physics break down, which dominated the whole of his academic life.

Hawking is pictured with his  children Robert, Lucy & Tim and his first wife Jane 

Prof Hawking’s crowning achievement was his prediction in the 1970s that black holes can emit energy, despite the classical view that nothing – not even light – can escape their gravity.

Hawking Radiation, based on mathematical concepts arising from quantum mechanics, the branch of science that deals with the weird world of sub-atomic particles, eventually causes black holes to ‘evaporate’ and vanish, according to the theory.

Had the existence of Hawking Radiation been proved by astronomers or physicists, it would almost certainly have earned Prof Hawking a Nobel Prize. As it turned out, the greatest scientific accolade eluded him until the time of this death.

Born in Oxford on January 8 1942 – 300 years after the death of astronomer Galileo Galilei – Prof Hawking grew up in St Albans.

He had a difficult time at the local public school and was persecuted as a ‘swot’ who was more interested in jazz, classical music and debating than sport and pop.

Although not top of the class, he was good at maths and ‘chaotically enthusiastic in chemistry’.

As an undergraduate at Oxford, the young Hawking was so good at physics that he got through with little effort.

He later calculated that his work there ‘amounted to an average of just an hour a day’ and commented: ‘I’m not proud of this lack of work, I’m just describing my attitude at the time, which I shared with most of my fellow students.

‘You were supposed to be brilliant without effort, or to accept your limitations and get a fourth-class degree.’

Hawking got a first and went to Cambridge to begin work on his PhD, but already he was beginning to experience early symptoms of his illness.

During his last year at Oxford he became clumsy, and twice fell over for no apparent reason. Shortly after his 21st birthday he went for tests, and at 22 he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

The news came as an enormous shock that for a time plunged the budding academic into deep despair. But he was rescued by an old friend, Jane Wilde, who went on to become his first wife, giving him a family with three children.

After a painful period coming to terms with his condition, Prof Hawking threw himself into his work.

At one Royal Society meeting, the still-unknown Hawking interrupted a lecture by renowned astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle, then at the pinnacle of his career, to inform him that he had made a mistake.

An irritated Sir Fred asked how Hawking presumed to know that his calculations were wrong. Hawking replied: ‘Because I’ve worked them out in my head.’

Eddie Redmayne won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking in 2014 

In the 1980s, Prof Hawking and Professor Jim Hartle, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, proposed a model of the universe which had no boundaries in space or time.

The concept was described in his best-selling popular science book A Brief History Of Time, published in 1988, which sold 25 million copies worldwide.

As well as razor sharp intellect, Prof Hawking also possessed an almost child-like sense of fun, which helped to endear him to members of the public.

He booked a seat on Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic sub-orbital space plane and rehearsed for the trip by floating inside a steep-diving Nasa aircraft – dubbed the ‘vomit comet’ – used to simulate weightlessness.

On one wall of his office at Cambridge University was a clock depicting Homer Simpson, whose theory of a ‘doughnut-shaped universe’ he threatened to steal in an episode of the cartoon show. He is said to have glared at the clock whenever a visitor was late.

From 1979 to 2009 he was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the university – a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton. He went on to become director of research in the university’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.

Upheaval in his personal life also hit the headlines, and in February 1990 he left Jane, his wife of 25 years, to set up home with one of his nurses, Elaine Mason. The couple married in September 1995 but divorced in 2006.

Throughout his career Prof Hawking was showered with honorary degrees, medals, awards and prizes, and in 1982 he was made a CBE.

But he also ruffled a few feathers within the scientific establishment with far-fetched statements about the existence of extraterrestrials, time travel, and the creation of humans through genetic engineering.

He has also predicted the end of humanity, due to global warming, a new killer virus, or the impact of a large comet.

In 2015 he teamed up with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner who has launched a series of projects aimed at finding evidence of alien life.

Hawking and his new bride Elaine Mason pose for pictures after the blessing of their wedding at St. Barnabus Church September 16, 1995

The decade-long Breakthrough Listen initiative aims to step up the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) by listening out for alien signals with more sensitivity than ever before.

The even bolder Starshot Initiative, announced in 2016, envisages sending tiny light-propelled robot space craft on a 20-year voyage to the Alpha Centauri star system.

Meanwhile Prof Hawking’s ‘serious’ work continued, focusing on the thorny question of what happens to all the information that disappears into a black hole. One of the fundamental tenets of physics is that information data can never be completely erased from the universe.

A paper co-authored by Prof Hawking and published online in Physical Review Letters in June 2016 suggests that even after a black hole has evaporated, the information it consumed during its life remains in a fuzzy ‘halo’ – but not necessarily in the proper order.

Prof Hawking outlined his theories about black holes in a series of Reith Lectures broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in January and February 2016.

Stephen Hawking’s pearls of wisdom

– On the reason why the universe exists: ‘If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God’ – A Brief History Of Time, published 1988.

– On being diagnosed with motor neurone disease: ‘My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus’ – Interview in The New York Times, December 2004.

– On black holes: ‘Einstein was wrong when he said, ‘God does not play dice’. Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen’ – The Nature Of Space And Time, published 1996.

– On God: ‘It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going’ – The Grand Design, published 2010.

– On commercial success: ‘I want my books sold on airport bookstalls’ – Interview in The New York Times, December 2004.

– On fame: ‘The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognised. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away’ – Interview on Israeli TV, December 2006.

– On an imperfect world: ‘Without imperfection, you or I would not exist’ – In Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking, The Discovery Channel, 2010.

– On euthanasia: ‘The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants. But I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope’ – Quoted in People’s Daily Online, June 2006.

– On intellectual showboating: ‘People who boast about their IQ are losers’ – Interview in The New York Times, December 2004.

– On the possibility of contact between humans and aliens: ‘I think it would be a disaster. The extraterrestrials would probably be far in advance of us. The history of advanced races meeting more primitive people on this planet is not very happy, and they were the same species. I think we should keep our heads low’ – In Naked Science: Alien Contact, The National Geographic Channel, 2004.

– On the importance of having a sense of humour: ‘Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny’ – Interview in The New York Times, December 2004.

– On death: ‘I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first’ – Interview in The Guardian, May 2011.’