Cancer: Call For Crowdfunding Vetting

In a recent interview, Indiegogo’s founder Slava Rubin made the point on “flavors of crowdfunding.” He told the journalist:

Indiegogo really focuses on the entrepreneurs and we try to support them to bring their ideas to life. We’re really helping them find their customers. Their first promotion, their first backers and then supporting them throughout the process as they continue to get bigger and get more validation.

He then added that,

there are other flavors of crowdfunding some more personal cause type that I as you mentioned with GoFundMe.

THE CASE

Leading crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe and JustGiving have recently made the news due to a report by Good Thinking Society on the results of a year-long investigation into crowdfunding appeals for ineffective cancer treatments published by the BMJ, a leading general medical journal, such as extreme dietary regimes, intravenous vitamin C, alkaline therapy and other alternative treatments.

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Source: the BMJ

THE STUDY

Figures from the study shows that:

  • Since 2012, more 540 crowdfunding appeals have sought to raise money to send patients for unproven or disproven alternative cancer treatments.
  • More than £8m has been raised across those 540 appeals, with the majority going to overseas clinics in Germany, Mexico, and the US.
  • 223 of the appeals identified gained positive coverage in the local or national media.
  • More than 140 of the patients involved in the fundraisers have subsequently passed away.

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REACTIONS

Several titles have reported on this including the likes of BBC, Metro, The Independent, The Times, The Sun, Newsweek, Daily Mail and Gizmodo.

NHS, the British National Health System, ask:

Are crowdfunding sites promoting quack treatments for cancer?

The project director, The Good Thinking Society’s Director, Michael Marshall, 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 them harm.

He also added:

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.

Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at University of Exeter, compared crowdfunding for fake cancer therapies to fundraising for a terror attack:

Crowdfunding for a terror attack is out of the question. Crowdfunding for cancer quackery is not any better and must be stopped.

WHAT DID PLATFORMS RESPOND?

Reactions from the two platforms are mixed bag as, on the one hand, GoFundMe stated it is already “taking proactive steps” and

Ultimately, we’ll be monitoring content of this kind more closely in order to provide tailored advice,

while JustGiving told the BMJ,

We don’t believe we have the expertise to make a judgment on this.

CLOSING REMARKS

Talking about the role of the media, Marshall pointed out:

If the media want to report on medical fundraising stories, they should seek the advice of qualified medical experts.

Find out more HERE.

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