Belfast Telegraph

We must back medical research

Editor's Viewpoint

Sometimes it seems there is a support group for every known disease. It is difficult to lift a newspaper or listen to the radio or tune into television without being confronted by someone detailing their experience in combating a serious illness.

But rather than turning us off, these firsthand accounts make fascinating reading. The fact that someone is relating how they survived the illness is encouraging. We are then thankful that we have not contracted that disease and we may also be prompted to join the support group or at least give a donation towards their work raising awareness and supporting research.

Today, noted obstetrician Professor Jim Dornan, whose son Jamie has found fame as an actor, relates in this newspaper how he survived leukaemia, a potentially lethal blood cancer. He wants to raise awareness of the disease and also encourage people to fund life-saving research that is taking place in Belfast.

His account not only gives his support group, Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI, a higher profile, but it also adds to our knowledge of the disease.

The work of groups like this is invaluable. If it was not for such dedicated organisations, the public would know far less about many illnesses and, more importantly, how modern medicine is combating them. It used to be thought that contracting cancer was a near-certain death sentence, but now we know that many forms of the disease are treatable and become a chronic illness rather than an acute one. In other words, sufferers in all probability will die with the disease rather than of it.

And that is possible because of research breakthroughs such as gene therapy or other groundbreaking treatments.

At a time when the NHS is under huge financial pressure, it is the fundraising by support groups that helps the scientists continue their work.

So we should encourage these groups to continue their sterling work, holding their awareness campaigns, adding to our knowledge and appealing for our money.

They could save our lives some day.

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