To avoid the spread of misinformation, bioethics experts called in a study published on December 8th to urge crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to forgo funding unproven and unsafe medical programs. Many people are known to raise money for various medical interventions through GoFundMe. Since 2010, these activities have involved more than $650 million in funding. But some of the money raised was used for unproven and even illegal medical purposes.
(Screenshot via TheVerge)
Media pointed out that unregulated “stem cell therapy” has been the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) harsh condemnation. Even Google, the tech giant, has banned such ads. Unfortunately, GoFundMe still lets it go.
According to a new paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Hastings Center Report, the authors believe GoFundMe may send the wrong message that bad actors can harm cancer or other seriously ill patients.
A recent study showed that between November 2017 and November 2018, GoFundMe raised more than $5 million for unregulated neural stem cell surgery and shared it 200,000 times on social media.
GoFundMe knows this is happening, and without their involvement, things wouldn’t have gone so well. The author thinks the platform should be ashamed of it.
The Washington Post also reported a few days ago that an unregulated stem cell treatment center in Tampa, Florida, had publicly instructed patients to apply for loans and crowdfunding thousands of dollars for risky surgery.
Referring to GoFundMe’s inaction, Snyder said — I think they definitely haven’t stopped for a time, and one of those examples runs counter to what other tech industries are doing.
Technology companies have more scrutiny in the much-hyped pseudo-science diagnosis and treatment. Facebook, for example, has cleaned up its sensational health claims on its platform, and Google recently blocked ads for unregulated cell therapy.
Alison Bateman-House, an assistant professor at New York University and an expert in bioethics at Langone Health, who was not involved in the paper, said that banning funding for unproven therapies is well-founded.
Bateman-House worries that GoFundMe sends the wrong message to people, leading to patients being tricked into being duped by fake medical ads: “Know that most Americans lack medical expertise, but there is always a lack of profit-for-profit in the world.”
In response, a GoFundMe spokesman also provided a statement about the company’s stem cell treatment policy, saying it was in contact with experts and medical facilities to understand the impact on customers. As for the decision to make donations, it remains in the hands of the community.