A moral dilemma
I launched the Research & Hope website in February 2011. It is now three years later and I am working to improve and update the website. From the beginning I have had the same moral dilemma as I now face: do I hold fast to my ethical principles, or earn enough money to speed up the research and help more people?
My choice so far has been to stay with my principles and do without the cash! I am only able to enhance the Research & Hope website now because I set up another company dedicated to creating apps to support people with communication and cognitive challenges. This company Neruo Hero is supporting Research & Hope at the moment but it is also a social enterprise and struggling to become sustainable.
Here is my dilemma: researchandhope.com already has the potential to help numerous stroke survivors by explaining stroke therapies that are tested but not typically offered by hospitals and rehabilitation centres e.g. stem cell therapy. However, this is not enough. There are so many other people that we could help: those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, acquired brain injury, dementia and a vast array of other conditions. The longer it takes us to generate sections of the website for each of these conditions, the longer people suffer needlessly. As soon as the website starts to generate some money, we will hire more researchers. Using the systems I have designed, it would take around six months for two researchers working full-time to generate information on 20-25 potential treatments for a chronic disease such as dementia.
How do we find sponsors?
We would like to find sponsors for the website, ideally we will find one sponsor for each potential treatment e.g. stem cells or for each type of illness e.g. stroke or dementia. The problem is this: it would be relatively easy to get a stem cell clinic to sponsor the page on stem cells, and I could follow this model until I had made a tidy sum, but this would compromise the integrity of the website. Like every good philosopher, I want to show both the arguments for and the arguments against each course of action. I can’t imagine this type of sponsor gleefully handing over money while I explain all the potential problems with their treatment. In addition, the entire website could be perceived as a series of advertorials promoting a collection of vested interests. This is the opposite of my wish to provide unbiased information.
Another idea is to look for sponsors who are running ethical organisations and who do not have a vested interest. This may be an option when the Research & Hope website has tens of thousands of visitors a day but until then it is unlikely. As I said in my very first blog, I believe that there is an answer to every problem, even though it is not always easy to find. At the moment, I stand with Socrates: I am very aware that I know nothing!
If anyone out there can advise me on how to reach the sponsors we need to keep the information on stroke up to date and to generate information on acquired brain injury, dementia and other conditions please let us know.
By Dr. Aviva Cohen, PhD
Neuro Hero Neuro Hero Blog Research and Hope