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  • Kareena Sukhnanan

Crowdfunding Medical Campaigns

Crowdfunding is the idea of gradually collecting small sums of money from large groups of people. Popular websites like GoFundMe are notorious for gradually gathering large sums of money from large populations through relatable, heart wrenching causes like healthcare, food scarcity, etc. However, crowdfunding is commonly taken advantage of through deception and dishonesty in campaign narratives. Several examples may include lying about an illness, unpaid medical bills, natural disaster, etc. Not only do websites like GoFundMe blindly support false narratives and competition in telling the most “compelling” stories, but also heighten the gap that exists in wealth inequality rather than increasing access to available resources (notably in healthcare). Crowdfunding is also considered to be a threat to traditional fundraisers that have a more “direct” and “reliable” approach to who and where donations are given, (as many people feel that individuals need to donate towards a broader issue rather than a specific one). These issues beg several questions and debates that critique the ethicalities of running medical crowdfunding campaigns through websites like GoFundMe.

Oftentimes, utilizing crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe may seem like an efficient, accessible, and reasonable way to receive financial help in a state of urgency. However, the realities of popular fundraising websites like GoFundMe uncover the detrimental and inequitable costs of supporting these platforms. During the COVID-19 pandemic, out of 165,000 pandemic related campaigns, more than 4 in 10 received no donations. Although over $418 million dollars were raised throughout the pandemic, this money was majorly donated to populations that did not necessarily need financial assistance. This inequity highlights the detrimental effect websites like GoFundMe have on high wealth inequality, mainly helping wealthier populations raise even more money. Explanations for this strengthened wealth gap may include the fact that the majority of donations may go to those who already have an adequate financial status, and campaigns run by those with wealthier connections and networks may receive more attention.

Many people may find themselves in a position where they are hesitant to donate towards a traditional or non-traditional platform. Well-known charities like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, and Relay for Life are known for funding major issues like world hunger and cancer. However, charities like Relay for Life are criticized for not properly allocating their funding towards cancer research causes and initiatives that directly help cancer patients. Instead, fundraisers may spend large sums of money promoting their own brands and not directly helping the cause at hand. Although charity websites like GoFundMe may seem like a realistic, genuine way for individuals to receive financial assistance, others may argue that mass online charities push away attention from traditional charities. However, websites like GoFundMe ensure most of the funds gained go directly to the individual in need. This sparks the question for many regarding whether mass online charities are a more efficient and reliable way for individuals to ensure that their donations are directly benefiting those in need.

Although fundraising websites like GoFundMe provide a platform for any individual to advocate for their own cause, many individuals are critical of the fact that receiving adequate assistance is reliant on one’s ability to create a compelling story. This sense of competition between fundraising initiatives is controversial and may cause several fundraisers to remain ignored and have low success rates. However, telling a compelling story may be beneficial in instances where one’s story is rare or overlooked. For instance, telling a compelling story may raise awareness towards a rare disease that is underfunded and lacks assistance or attention. ON the other hand, telling a “compelling story” may be taken too far when an individual ends up lying about their cause out of desperation. This sparks the debate on whether crowdfunding campaigns should be fact-checked or not. Although fact-hecking may seem like a reasonable alternative to ensure money is allocated to desired populations, the right to privacy may been threatened. Should the government intervene when people are simply trying to help those who are struggling?

In a society filled with bad news, human beings want to feel a sense of hope towards the issues their confronted with. Fundraising websites like GoFundMe grants virtually anyone the opportunity to donate towards a cause out of their own generosity, concern, and compassion. On the other hand, there are innumerable systematic problems in our healthcare system that are systematic and need to be addressed. If people are donating towards a cause they feel compelled and empathize with, should their contributions be villainized? In a world swarmed with inequality, is it right to critique those who wish to donate towards a specific issue rather than on a broader scope?

Edited by: Min Ju Lee

Graphic Designed by: Harris Upchurch



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