Yorkshire could host national centre to find cure for deadly asbestos cancers


The Government is presently in talks with Yorkshire medics and campaigners to establish a new national centre to help to find the cure for deadly cancers caused by asbestos. A long-delayed report into whether victims of pleural plaques, a scarring of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos, should be entitled to compensation is due to be released shortly by ministers.

The Yorkshire MPs are leading the fight for compensation but the Government is being lobbied by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) which considers that the scarring is harmless and has not been proven to lead to further asbestos illness.

The campaigners believe that those with pleural plaques are more likely to develop the painful and lethal lung cancer mesothelioma in later life and as such they deserve compensation for the stress that it causes.

Those that have pleural plaques were able to apply for compensation until the Law Lords reversed that decision in 2007. The Scottish Parliament has since overturned that ruling and MPs are now pressuring Justice Secretary Jack Straw to follow suit for sufferers in England and Wales.

As part of their lobbying, MPs are putting pressure on Mr Straw to also fund a National Centre for Asbestos-Related Diseases, the brainchild of Sheffield-based thoracic surgeon and mesothelioma expert John Edwards.

The £5m grant from the Government would unlock £5m from charities, trade unions, law firms and the insurance industry, which in turn would attract leading researchers and help mesothelioma and related diseases to move away from being the "poor relations" of the cancer world.

Mr Edwards considers that the Government has so far failed to accept its social and moral responsibility for asbestos-related diseases over the years and that is a major problem that needs to be redressed.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice recently confirmed that they intend to publish a response to the consultation paper on pleural plaques before the summer recess. Further the Ministry recognised the sense of grievance felt as a result of the 2007 judgment and was considering its response.

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