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Medical crowdfunding campaigns touch 4,000 in city
At least Rs 60 crore has been raised in the State so far for these campaigns. Ninety per cent of the fundraisers in the city were set up to fund medical treatments.
Three-year-old Harisudhan would get frequent fevers. When local doctors could not successfully diagnose him, it took numerous visits to top hospitals in Vellore, Coimbatore and Madurai to find out that Harisudhan was suffering from thalassemia. The doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant.
But, even after finding out a match the family could not afford the transplant and post-transplant treatment which would have cost about Rs 15 lakh. Later, an online crowdfunding campaign united 697 supporters to raise the amount and Harisudhan could finally go ahead with the transplant. He has now resumed his normal life.
In another instance, eight-year-old Sindrilla was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. Her father, a farmer, ran from pillar to post to pay for chemotherapy. The cost of her treatment was estimated to about Rs 6 lakh, but his father could only borrow Rs 1 lakh from friends and family. Later, the doctors recommended sharing her story on an online crowdfunding platform and it helped him raise Rs 8 lakh with the help of 372 supporters. Sindrilla has been undergoing treatment for a year now and has been doing well.
Crowdfunding platforms in the city have evolved from being a source to donate for social causes to a regulated network that helps patients seek funds for treatment. The number of such platforms have doubled in the last two years in Chennai and at least Rs 60 crore have been raised in Tamil Nadu. Since 2010, there have been 4,000 medical crowdfunding campaigns in the city and about 7,000 campaigns across Tamil Nadu so far by top three crowdfunding platforms including Milaap, Ketto and Impact Guru.
“In general, families often face trouble while raising funds for medical expenses. The financial stress is enormous. We partner with more than 700 hospitals as more than 90 percent of the fundraising is done for the medical needs of the people, while others include education and other social causes,” said Anoj Viswanathan, president and co-founder of Milaap. “People can campaign for any amount more than Rs 10,000 and there is no upper limit,” he said.
As per the statistics available on these crowdfunding platforms, over 90 percent of the fundraisers set in Chennai are for medical campaigns, the most common among them being for patients with liver disease and cancer. Next to Chennai, highest number of fundraisers are from Coimbatore followed by Madurai, Salem and Trichy. It is also witnessed that celebrities including actors Siddharth, Sushant Singh Rajput and singer Chinmayi Sriprada support such campaigns and help to support these people in need.
“With celebrities joining these campaigns, it is easy for the campaigners to reach a large number of people through social media. We receive a lot of cases of organ transplant, ICU treatment, paediatric cases and genetic diseases,” said an executive with Impact Guru.
But, while these platforms are a boon for those in need, it is also a huge platform for scamsters. Although the people associated with the crowdfunding platforms claimed that these scams are rare, they can be misused due to the increasing popularity of these campaigns. “The pictures are attributed to us and to check for the authenticity, we check the related prescriptions, hospital documents and scrutinise the documents to ensure that the funds are used for the specific treatment. The tie-up with the hospitals ensure easy verification and helps to identify genuine cases,” said Viswanathan.
These platforms also offer an option to report these campaigns if donors find any campaign to be suspicious. Last year, Milaap removed 1 percent of such campaigns after they were reported by the public and social media users. These crowdfunding platforms mandate uploading of medical documents from the hospital where treatment is sought, and the approximate expenditure of the treatment. They do not transfer money to the beneficiary directly, but to the hospital where the patient is admitted.
Experts pointed out that donating from these platforms is better than responding to pleas posted on social media cites as since such posts are shared, it could be possible donating for patients who no longer need the funds. Dr S Sunder, the founder of Freedom Trust, an NGO that works with crowdfunding platforms, said, “There are posts asking for funds for people who have probably either recovered or died, but the posts continue to be forwarded. Contact numbers may be available with these messages or posts, but people who do not verify such pleas may turn get conned and make others lose money too by forwarding the message.”
Major crowdfunding platforms
- Impact Guru
Popularity of campaigns
- Since 2010, there have been 4,000 medical crowdfunding campaigns in the city and about 7,000 campaigns across Tamil Nadu
- As per the statistics available on these crowdfunding platforms, over 90 percent of the fundraisers set in Chennai are for medical campaigns
- Next to Chennai, highest number of fundraisers are from Coimbatore followed by Madurai, Salem and Trichy.