The state of the US healthcare system has created a boom in crowdfunded medical campaigns as patients struggle to pay for treatment. In 2017, campaigners raised $930 million through GoFundMe — nearly half of the money raised by the site. Some hospitals have taken notice. Splinter highlighted a recent example in which a woman was denied a heart transplant because of the state of her finances, and suggested that she set up a “fundraising effort.”
The patient in question is Hedda Martin, who has been experiencing congestive heart failure after being treated for breast cancer in 2005. Doctors recommended that she get a Left Ventricular Assist Device to keep her alive while she waited for a heart transplant. Her condition deteriorated in September and was told by a heart transplant committee at Spectrum Health Richard Devos Heart and Lung Transplant Center of Grand Rapids, Michigan that she was “not a candidate at this time for a heart transplant due to needing more secure finance plan for immunosuppressive medical coverage.” The committee proceeded to recommend that she raise $10,000 via a fundraiser.
In a Facebook post (currently offline, as Martin says that her account was locked for 24 hours) Martin notes that the committee will “reconsider” her status once the money has been raised.
Anyone that thinks this is okay needs a heart transplant because, clearly, they don’t have one themselves. This is immoral & not okay. We need the #NewYorkHealthAct now. #MedicareForAll @NYHCampaign @justicedems #NYHA @SenGianaris @NYSenatorRivera @SalazarSenate @Biaggi4NY #DSA pic.twitter.com/XcSQ5V0ZOR— Dan Radzikowski (@DanRadzikowski) November 24, 2018
In a statement to Splinter, the hospital noted that it doesn’t comment on individual cases due to privacy concerns, and outlined its decision-making process for transplants. It notes that these reviews are complicated and difficult decisions, and that as they must take into consideration the lengthy treatment, the ability for a patient to pay for their treatment is a factor in the process.
The viral exposure does appear to have helped Martin. According to Splinter, Martin’s daughter started up a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe on Saturday, which has since raised $11,512 of her $10,000 goal, which will hopefully prompt the hospital to reconsider placing her back on the list.
The situation highlights a systemic issue within the US healthcare system: the exorbitant costs for treatment force people to look elsewhere for the means to pay for treatment, such as crowdfunding sites. While Martin’s case has a bright point — the outrage pushed donations above her campaign’s goal in just a day — hoping for viral exposure is not a method, and Martin’s case is likely an exception, rather than a rule.