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Dubious Care And Big Bucks By GoFundMe: Study

The American Cancer Society's deputy chief medical officer, said it's important to consider what may drive some patients to turn to unproven remedies.

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A radiologist examines the brain X-rays of a patient. In a small study, patients with brain tumors were given genetically modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack the cancer. VOA
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People seeking dubious, potentially harmful treatment for cancer and other ailments raised nearly $7 million over two years from crowdfunding sites, a study found.

Echoing recent research on campaigns for stem cell therapies, the findings raise more questions about an increasingly popular way to help pay for costly, and sometimes unproven, medical care.

Soliciting money on GoFundMe and other sites eliminates doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and other “gatekeepers” that can be a barrier to expensive treatment, said lead author Dr. Ford Vox, an ethicist and brain injury expert at Shepherd Center rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta. He calls it “the democratization of economic power through social media” but says it can pose an ethical dilemma.

Online fundraising “has a big bright side” when it helps patients pay for legitimate care, he said. “Communities are really being able to rally around people in rough times. That’s fantastic, but there is this very clear dark side” when treatments sought are worthless or even dangerous.

Breast Cancer
This undated fluorescence-colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells. For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. VOA

His study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

GoFundMe says campaigns for medical care are increasing and are among the most numerous on its site. They include solicitations for conventional treatment and for unproven alternative therapies.

“We always encourage people to fully research whatever it is they are raising money for and to be absolutely transparent on their GoFundMe page, so donors can make an informed decision on what they’re donating to,” GoFundMe said in an emailed statement.

The researchers examined campaigns posted from November 2015 through mid-December 2017, mostly on GoFundMe. They focused on five treatments sought in about 1,000 campaigns: homeopathy or naturopathy for cancer; hyperbaric oxygen for brain injuries; stem cells for brain or spinal cord injuries; and long-term antibiotics for persistent Lyme disease.

 

Cancers
Women receive cancer treatment at The National Oncology Center in Sanaa, Yemen. VOA

 

While some patients swear they’ve benefited from some of the treatments, there is no rigorous scientific evidence that any of them work for the conditions involved, the researchers said.

The most numerous were solicitations for homeopathy or naturopathy for cancer — 474 requests seeking more than $12 million. About one-quarter of that was raised.

Homeopathic products typically contain heavily diluted drugs, vitamins or minerals said to promote healing, although some have been found to contain toxic amounts. Naturopathy, another alternative medicine practice, sometimes uses homeopathic products, herbs and dietary supplements or body cleanses.

Michelle Drapeau has raised about $7,000 on GoFundMe for homeopathy and other alternative remedies since being diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer in February 2017. The 45-year-old investment banker from West Palm Beach, Florida, credits them with keeping her alive since she stopped chemotherapy over a year ago.

Cancer patient
Cancer patient, flickr

“I wanted to make sure I explored every and all options,” Drapeau said. “It’s vital for everyone to have that opportunity.”

Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, the American Cancer Society’s deputy chief medical officer, said it’s important to consider what may drive some patients to turn to unproven remedies. U.S. health care costs are exorbitant and many patients run out of money trying to pay them.

And despite considerable progress against cancer and other illnesses, conventional treatment can’t cure every patient, he noted.

“We should not be judgmental and come out and say this is terrible,” Lichtenfeld said.

Also Read: Nature Gives You A Major Boost In Improving Your Mental Health

“No one wants to hear, ‘You have cancer,’ and especially no one wants to hear that there’s no treatment available that can help you,” he said. “You begin to understand why people may turn to unproven treatments and you can understand why others reach out to try to support them.

“What we need to do is to better inform, even better care for our patients and their families, so they don’t feel this is what they need to do.” (VOA)

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Lack of Proper Sanitation Affects 620 Million Children Around The World: Report

Despite the improvements, more than a third of the girls in South Asia miss school for one to three days a month during their period.

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A new toilet recently installed in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

A lack of proper school toilets threatens the health, education and safety of at least 620 million children around the world, the charity WaterAid said in a new study published Friday.

Children at 1 in 3 schools lack access to proper toilets, putting them at risk of diarrhea and other infections and forcing some to miss lessons altogether, according to the study, based on data from 101 countries.

Guinea-Bissau in West Africa has the worst school toilets while Ethiopian children fare worst at home, with 93 percent of homes lacking a decent toilet according to the report, released ahead of World Toilet Day on Monday.

toilets, students
Students arrive for class at the Every Nation Academy private school in the city of Makeni in Sierra Leone, April 20, 2012. VOA

“The message here is that water and sanitation affect everything,” WaterAid spokeswoman Anna France-Williams told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “If there’s no toilet in schools, children will miss lessons and it will have an impact on their growing up.”

Diarrhea, infection risk

A lack of proper sanitation puts millions of children around the world in danger of diarrhea, which kills 289,000 children younger than 5 a year, WaterAid said.

But some regions have started to clean up their act, notably South Asia, where access to toilets in schools has improved.

More than half the schools in Bangladesh now have access to decent toilets, while students in 73 percent of schools in India and 76 percent of those in Bhutan can access basic sanitation.

Akramul Islam, director of water, sanitation and hygiene at the Bangladeshi charity BRAC, said the country’s once-high levels of open defecation — using open ground rather than toilets — were now less than 1 percent.

toilets, studentsac
India’s plight in sanitation has not improved much since ages.
Pixabay

“Today, schools have separate toilets for girls and boys and the issue of menstrual hygiene is also being addressed,” he said. “This has happened because of initiatives taken by both the government, the NGOs and other stakeholders.”

Also Read: 3 HIV+ Students Banned From School in Indonesia

Improvement needed

Despite the improvements, more than a third of the girls in South Asia miss school for one to three days a month during their period, WaterAid said, urging greater investment in basic sanitation.

“If we are serious about all children and young people, wherever they are, whatever their gender, physical ability or community background, having their right to clean water and sanitation, we must take decisive and inclusive action now,” said Chief Executive Tim Wainwright. (VOA)