Ready to Donate to a Rare Patient on GoFundMe? Make Sure you are Paying for Something That Works

According to a story from, a recent study found that $7 million on donations on crowdfunding sites for medical patients have gone towards treatments that are medically unsound and even potentially harmful. This information highlights that fact that while these sites have helped many patients gain access to lifesaving treatments, they also can result in serious and dire consequences when patients choose a treatment that may not work.

The Search for Funding

The increasing popularity of crowdfunding websites like is an indication of the primary challenge that patients face when it comes to seeking the medical treatment that they need: finding a way to actually pay for it. This can be especially challenging for rare disease patients, as rare therapies often have much higher costs than more commonly used drugs and patients may require chronic, long term treatment. Both of these factors make costs as even greater burden and further the appeal of crowdfunding. 

A common culprit for dubious treatments that earn a lot of donations include unproven stem cell therapies. While stem cells do have viable medical uses, many clinics offer treatments with them that have no scientific backing or therapeutic effect. Both patients and potential donors often are unaware that these treatments are not scientifically proven.

The Pluses and Minuses of Crowdfunding

Part of the appeal of crowdfunding is that it can bypass the extreme cost and complexity that comes with dealing with doctors, hospitals, or health insurers. While this puts a lot of control in the hands of the patient directly, this factor is also a serious weakness of the platform. At the end of they day, doctors and other caregivers are more likely to know which treatments are safe and worthwhile; it is easy for a desperate patient to find an approach that sounds good and shoot for it without knowing any other vital details.

The study looked at data from November 2015 to December 2017. Some of the most common unproven treatments were naturopathy and homeopathy for cancer, long term antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease, hyperbaric oxygen for brain injuries, and stem cells for brain and spinal injury. 

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