Thought for the day: would you pay higher taxes to fund medical research?

I noticed with interest that there is a motion before the Church of England synod meeting this week suggesting that it is a Christian duty to donate blood and organs?

Quite apart from conjuring up some interesting visions of the collecting plate in our churches this coming weekend, it did get me thinking about how much and how far we are prepared to go to support medical research?

In America, Vice-President Joe Biden has been hand-picked to oversee Obama’s ‘cancer moon-shot’ initiative. Actually, this is one of a series of announcements that Obama has made which would change the complexion of funding for medical research in the United States.  Congress is receptive to the idea but Republicans in particular are concerned about the impact on people’s taxes.

‘ResearchAmerica,’ the proactive lobby group which aims to raise public awareness and supporting for medical research, last week published the results of an opinion poll showing that 50% of Americans would pay higher taxes to fund cancer research.  The idea is unsurprisingly favoured more by Democrats than Republicans.  Apparently 5 cents in every $1 of tax goes on medical research in the US – I am not sure what the figure here in the UK is.

These sorts of debates pop up every once in a while on both sides of the water.  The take-home message tends to be more or less the same – many of us are prepared to pay quite a high price to advance the search for a cure.  But they also beg many questions. Would we say the same if other diseases were front-and-centre for instance?  When will we see a politicians brave enough to say the same of research into mental health for instance, or palliative care?  To which end I applaud this week’s Independent Mental Health Taskforce report that calls for a co-ordinated strategy on mental health research in the UK.

It is also legitimate for us as citizens to ask something about the race itself.  Is this a marathon that successive Governments will sign up too?  Or a Sprint that will last only as long as the current runner has a breath in their body?  Who gets to define the finishing line – politicians, scientist or citizen? And finally….

…..has the starter gun really been fired on a race to the finish?  Or have we really just marked the beginning of another unedifying race for more funding between institutions and organisations serving their own interests?



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