Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Self-Defeating Business Model (with a side order of guilt)

Over the Christmas holidays I saw a commercial on TV that I thought was absolutely shameless.

It showed a bald-headed young girl in a hospital bed on the sidewalk of a busy city street pleading to those walking by to make a contribution for Hodgkin’s Disease research, only to see all of them walk right on by without a glance, ignoring both her and her pleas.

The message – complete with its triple helping of guilt – was that Hodgkin’s Disease needs more money for research. I don’t doubt that it does; but then again, who doesn’t “need” more money? I have yet to see any business, organization, government, non-profit, or charity hold up their hands and say, “Okay, you can stop now. We’ve got all we need.”

How many non-profit organizations exist today whose stated purpose is to “find a cure” for whatever medical condition they represent? I have no idea, but there’s a bunch, and many of them have been around for a long, long time.

Pick your condition – cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, AIDS, etc.; Have you ever thought about how much money the organizations “fighting” these conditions collectively rake in every year? Year after year? Decade after decade?

And yet, for all of the money pumped into them, can you name one that has actually come up with a cure for anything? Just one?

The short answer is that none of them have, and the reason why is exactly the same reason why GE will never sell a lightbulb that won’t burn out and Duracell will never invent a battery that actually lasts a really long time, because if they ever do, we won’t need them anymore.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that these organizations don’t do anything to help – they do – but finding cures is not one of them. If you’re looking for a cure for cancer, for instance, don’t look to the American Cancer Society to find one. What possible reason could the ACS have for finding a cure for cancer?

The ACS has over 3,400 offices nationwide, thousands of employees making a nice living, and tens of millions of dollars pouring in each & every year. It’s a pretty cool business model as business models go, but it does have one tiny little flaw: If a cure for cancer is ever found, the ACS goes away.

Make no mistake, the ACS is in it for the long haul – 96 years and counting; an organization doesn’t advertise “careers” on their website unless they honestly believe you’ll have plenty of time to have one. Finding a cure for cancer isn’t even one of ACS’s corporate goals. Why would it be? It would put them out of business.

So am I saying that you shouldn’t give money to the ACS and organizations like them? Absolutely not. Just don’t be under the misconception that your donation will actually help find a cure, because it won’t, no matter how much guilt is thrown your way.

Upton Sinclair is credited with stating, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

I would suggest that with the tweaking of only a few words, Sinclair’s statement could describe every medical non-profit organization in the world: “It is difficult to get an organization to find a cure for something when their very existence depends on not having one.”

If that makes me a cynic, so be it.

1 comment:

Kimberline said...

This exact thing has been a pet peeve of mine for years. Thanks for writing about it.

The organization that REALLY makes me hot under the collar is the Komen For The Cure as they are now calling themselves. I used to love the color pink until they hijacked it for the entire month of October and trot it around the rest of the year on select merchandise as well. It seems every item I buy has a pink ribbon or a pink label in the month of October.

At one time I had information I was trying to follow up on that organization and had a contact link to a doctor who had quit working for their organization when she found out they were taking portions of donations given to them and in return supporting other organizations...Like Planned Parenthood. That organization funds abortions. Abortions are a known risk factor for developing cancer. The hypocrisy of it galled me and that was the least of it. Unfortunately I lost my file on it and the information I needed to contact the doctor directly. There went my investigative information right out the window. Oh and I am sure this sounds all conspiracy theorist, but the info was lost in a very odd computer "crash."

I know a lot of pro life women who got sponsorships to walk in those Komen walks for the cure and were proud of their large donations by doing so. Would they support that organization if they knew it was in turn investing in planned parenthood, which funds abortions and supports early sexuality and promotes a mindset that children are a burden? Um, I think not?

And not one dime of Komen funding appears to go to PREVENTION. That is my second huge gripe with a lot of these organizations. They spend not one dime of money toward getting out a good program of information about things that could prevent the diseases they represent. In my mind it would be better that half of all research funding into researching prevention using natural means including diet, lifestyle changes, supplements and herbs which can promote health and prevent future disease. I somehow doubt that will happen with ANY of these organizations. And the pharmaceutical companies have it out for anyone who might try to inform people about prevention of disease, anyway.

I'm not sure how we can trust the medications they promote in every magazine picked up these days when they have been shown over and over again to have conflicts in interest, pay off doctors to falsify drug studies, twist facts to promote sales, offer free meds to those patients who will talk their doctors into prescribing X Y and Z.

Drug pushers use the same tactics because they work. Hey, the first high is ALWAYS free, right? And sometimes the 2nd and 3rd. And if you will be a drug pusher of a doctor, I bet there are a lot of free lunches and vacations (conventions) to be had.

The entire system around "health" is corrupt. But hey, it is good business, huh?

As always Blaine, you did a great job of getting right to the point. Great article.