Ethics of Grateful Patient Fundraising

Grateful patient fundraising (GPFR) is the most frequently-named interest of applicants to the JHMPI Summer Institute, and a common focus of medical development professionals. Yet some physicians hesitate to work with development on GPFR, due to concerns about ethics and the potential negative impact of discussing money with patients. The media has also raised public awareness of GPFR and called into question its ethical acceptability.

At the JHMPI, we are taking these ethical concerns seriously. In June 2017, we held a two-day Summit on the Ethics of Grateful Patient Fundraising, in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP). Participants were 29 experts from across the United States who represented bioethics, clinical practice, development, law, patient advocacy, philanthropy, psychology, and regulatory compliance. The Summit’s purpose was to identify, and to develop a working set of recommendations for how to address, ethical issues that may arise in GPFR.

We have published the Summit’s results presented as an expert-derived set of guidelines for ethical practice of GPFR, and intended for use by clinicians and development professionals. At Johns Hopkins, with input from a GPFR ethics task force, we have developed a Q&A format of the guidelines for internal use, and we are deploying this guide across all units of the Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine as part of our Hopkins Way model.