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Medical crowdfunding in China: empirics and ethics

Abstract

Medical crowdfunding has become a popular choice worldwide for people with unaffordable health needs. In low-income and middle-income countries with limited social welfare arrangements and a high incidence of catastrophic health spending, the market for medical crowdfunding is booming. However, relevant research was conducted exclusively in North America and Europe; little is known about medical crowdfunding activities inother contexts. As a first step towards filling this knowledge gap, this study depicts the realities of medical crowdfunding in a middle-income country China through empirical investigation and ethical analysis. We examine 100 randomly selected medical campaigns from a major Chinese crowdfunding platform and analyse the relevance of the previously identified ethical concerns to the Chinese context. The empirical findings show that Chinese campaigns have low and uneven success rates, require legally the participation of charitable organisations and focus on financial distress and family values in appealing for donations. In addition, the ethical analysis suggests that medical crowdfunding in China shares several ethical concerns raised in developed countries such as the veracity of claims and privacy violation. More importantly, our research reveals the inadequacy of current evidence and the lack of indicators to evaluate ethical issues in practice. Additional research is needed to better understand this fundraising practice across different social and cultural contexts.

  • ethics
  • resource allocation
  • social aspects
  • cultural pluralism
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