Motor Neurone Disease: An Underwriter’s Perspective


Helen Croft  Helen Croft,  Underwriting and Claims Strategy Manager

Friday 16 March 2018

Motor Neurone Disease

Professor Stephen Hawking will be remembered as one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. 

His legacy will be defined by not only his achievements in theoretical physics, but by how he defied medicine by living for 55 years after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), despite being given just 2 years to live.

Most people are aware that Professor Hawking suffered from MND but may know little else about it. With his sad passing, we want to shed some light on this complex condition.

What is MND?

Rather than one condition, MND is actually a group of diseases that affect the brain and nerves (motor neurons), progressing over time and leading to muscle wasting and weakness. The most common type of MND is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) which is the type that Stephen Hawking had.

What causes MND?

It is not known what causes MND.

Who gets MND?

There are some childhood types but most MND is diagnosed after age 40. It is rare with approximately 5,000 adults in the UK having the condition at any one time.*

What are the symptoms of MND?

Different people will have different symptoms. Early symptoms can be things like weakness in legs or grip, speech difficulty, muscle pain and cramps or tiredness. Symptoms get worse over time and can lead to people being unable to walk, move, swallow and breathe. Some people will also get cognitive symptoms such as changes in thinking, reasoning or behaviour.

What treatments are used for MND?

There is no cure for MND so treatment focusses on managing and reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.

What is the prognosis for MND?

The prognosis depends on the type of MND and the age at diagnosis but with ALS the life expectancy from diagnosis is usually 2-5 years**, however Professor Hawking showed that this is not always the case.

Can you claim under a Critical Illness plan for MND? 

Yes, MND is a claimable condition under Critical Illness where a definite diagnosis has been made and there is a permanent impairment of motor function.​



We’ve recently published our Critical Illness claims stats for 2017, which included a claim for MND. Full details of our claims stats can be found here.