US doctors told to steer clear of “grateful patient” hospital fundraising because of ethical concernsBMJ 2023; 382 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.p2224 (Published 26 September 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p2224
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Re: US doctors told to steer clear of “grateful patient” hospital fundraising because of ethical concerns
I would like to comment to your recent news item entitled, “US doctors told to steer clear of “grateful patient” hospital fundraising because of ethical concerns,” based on my 40-year career in Academic Medicine and philanthropy.
The premise upon which the news item rests is unquestionable. Nothing should impede or impair the careful and kind care of the patient, as nothing should impair the expression of gratitude and the healing power of philanthropy.
For decades, our colleagues in psychology have documented the vital role that gratitude, caring and sharing play in one’s sense of well-being. We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and that will echo beyond our lifetimes. Abraham Maslow and Joan and Eric Erikson wrote that it is through ‘otherness’ that we reach self-actualization and integrity.
Unfortunately, we seem to have muddled these messages and thus, with a very broad brush and a tainted tone, paint philanthropy and the grateful patient as potentially part of the problem when they are often the solutions to the conundrums we face.
I am aware that is not the intent of this news item or of the policy it reports, yet I believe it is time to bring the ethical codes of conduct for physicians and fundraisers together. On the one hand, we should expect nothing from physicians other than careful and kind care, and, in turn fundraisers must always put the needs of the patient-benefactor first. This creates the perfect conditions for our patients’ natural tendencies to care and share.
Let’s enter a new partnership by which no physician feels the patient-clinician relationship is compromised by responding or is expected to deny or deflect noble offers of gratitude and reciprocity from patients. Instead, let's ensure clinicians can recognize and thank patients for such offers, celebrate such acts, and simply make referrals to development professionals to follow-up on those gestures.
Both professions – medicine and philanthropy - are indeed noble when practiced nobly.
With great respect.
Competing interests: No competing interests