Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Jeremy Snyder (Simon Fraser University)
Valorie Crooks (Simon Fraser University)
Crowdfunding for medical purposes is increasing globally. Organizers create campaigns for many reasons: to fund cancer treatment, access experimental therapies and many others. These campaigns rely heavily on the narrative they create as justification for others to deem their illness or context as “worthy” or “deserving” enough for funding. Many academics have researched ethical issues in the arbitrary determining factors of worthiness and what makes campaigns successful. To explore the role of emotion in creating “worthy” campaigns, we performed a narrative analysis on 393 GoFundMe campaigns attempting to raise funds for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We discovered three primary motivations for funding: (1) to obtain an autism support dog; (2) early intervention therapy or education; (3) to participate in experimental treatments. The campaigns were primarily set up by parents of a person with ASD and described worry for their child’s future. Most campaigns were in response to severely underfunded autism policy that created financial hardship. Narratives emerged of having to sell assets such as cars to meet financial targets for treatment. The campaigns also illustrated the daily struggles the person with ASD and their family face, providing powerful stories intended to elicit emotional and memorable reactions. While campaigns described hardship they also were written to be relatable, often describing feelings of intense joy with the arrival of their child, the devastation and unpreparedness of diagnosis, and the altruistic determination to move forward. This study provides novel findings on how medical crowdfunding campaigners seek to commodify emotional reactions to receive donations.