Danger of crowdfunded cures

‘Grandad – will you sponsor me?’  >  Being fleeced by grandchildren wanting sponsorship in aid of worthy causes is a hazard of getting old.  The fact that they will be doing whatever it is in any case because they enjoy it, is not considered a justifiable reason to refuse.

My grandson wanted 50p for every length he swum, so his class could buy a present for an elderly housebound lady,” moaned one of our therapist. “When I suggested it would be more productive if I sponsored his class to weed her garden or do her shopping, I was given the sullen treatment. Of course I paid up.”

But what do you say when the stakes are even higher? Crowdfunding sites are helping people with conditions which the NHS say are inoperable. Advanced cancer and brain tumours are the most common.

That sounds like great news, except that too often vast sums are raised for alternative treatments which are unproven and potentially risky. Some of these foreign unregulated clinics are blatantly profiteering from desperate people who are prepared to throw common sense to the wind. And who can blame them! Indeed, it could be argued that if the NHS diagnoses that you have a terminal condition, it does not matter how you spend your money.

As long as it is your money! It is certainly wrong if patients and their donors are being exploited.

Investigations into fundraising sites such as JustGiving and GoFundMe have found that more than £8m has been raised with the majority going to overseas clinics in Germany, Mexico, and the US.

Are fundraisers funding quackery?

A researcher said “We are concerned that so many UK patients are raising huge sums for treatments which are not evidence-based and which in some cases may even do harm. Crowdfunding platforms can offer vital help to people who need financial support at difficult times in their lives. But these platforms need to do more to prevent funds being channelled to clinics offering unproven and sometimes dangerous therapies.

“If these platforms want to continue to benefit from the goodwill of their users – and, indeed, to profit from the fees they charge each of their fundraisers – they have a responsibility to ensure that they do not facilitate the exploitation of vulnerable people.”

All very logical.  But if there is even a remote chance of saving a life, it would need a very cold hearted person to refuse. And maybe Tonic’s sister company is as guilty as the rest. Is it wrong to offer hope when the NHS says there is none? Maybe, but better to go down with all guns blazing than surrendering.

2 thoughts on “Danger of crowdfunded cures

  1. Heart-tugging tales of crowdfunded cancer ‘cures’ do indeed fuel quack medicine. Human interest stories in the Press about people with incurable diseases seeking controversial cures are unwittingly bolstering unscientific and potentially harmful treatments, But as to what you do about it is another matter. It is brave person who turns down a cry for financial help from a dying friend

  2. Harrison Ford (sadly, not that one!) says:

    There is nothing new about using crowdfunding to help people with cancer pay for expensive and ineffective alternative treatments. These often set six-figure targets in order to meet the ridiculous fees charged for controversial therapies. Regulation is long overdue but, as you say, a dying person will always clutch at any straw.

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