BMJ publishes Good Thinking’s cancer fundraising investigation

The BMJ today published the results of a year-long investigation by Good Thinking into crowdfunding appeals for ineffective cancer treatments.

As part of the investigation, Good Thinking searched fundraising sites such as JustGiving and GoFundMe, looking for appeals from UK patients which referenced unproven or disproven cancer treatments, and identifying where these treatments were being administered.

Our figures showed:

  • 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.

Our Project 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.”

“Crowdfunding platforms can offer vital help to people who need financial support at difficult times in their lives, but those platforms need to do more to prevent funds being channelled to clinics offering unproven and sometimes dangerous therapies.

“If a fundraiser is for treatment for a serious or life-threatening condition such as cancer, it ought to be reviewed by the fundraising platform before it is sent live, especially if it contains terminology that raises red flags for quackery.

“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.”

Good Thinking would like to thank Dr Alice Howarth for her help in evaluating the evidence behind alternative cancer treatments and researching fundraising appeals, and Karin McClure for help in compiling information.

Read the full BMJ report >>

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