Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lunch with Heels at Fairchild

The luncheon I was invited to by a dear client and friend was an annual fundraiser for the International Kid's Fund, a subsidiary of the Jackson Memorial Foundation. Since Jackson is a public hospital paid for with tax payers' money, only US residents can be treated. All foreigners must pay for treatment up front if they wish to be seen at this most prestigious of institutions. (I gave birth to all three of my babies there because I consider it to be the best hospital around.) This fund has been established to provide life-saving care for children from other countries who otherwise could not afford it. The theme of the luncheon was "Heros in Heels" and so the tables were decorated with sparkling shoes. Michelle Bernstein, of Michy's and Sen~ora Martinez restaurants, personally served all of the guests some of her exquisite dishes. There was a raffle in which the first place prize was a Cartier watch valued at $9000. The winner of the raffle, a very classy woman, refused to accept the prize and instead submitted it to be auctioned off to help the organization raise even more funds. The watch was purchased for a $6000. donation to IKF. Bravo! It is rare to see such a gesture.

I've come away with several questions after attending a series of charitable events. One is the conclusion that there are SO many causes and organizations that making decisions about who to give to is rather overwhelming. Another is that not all charities are created equal. Some favor addressing short-term problems while other look at the "big" picture. Some face tough ethical questions in their practices. For example, IKF receives many more children requesting needed surgeries than they can possibly support. How do they choose which children are worthy to fly all the way to Miami, house, treat, etc? What about the children who they cannot afford to help? Do they just send them a "rejection" letter as if they didn't get in to the college of their choice? Do they refer them to other organizations? Do they recommend other forms of treatment? For many of these cases, it is literally a matter of life and death. So who gets to play God? Who makes the decision? You can bet it is not a job I am interested in.

These questions remind me of the ease with which we Americans take forgranted the amazing health care system we have access to--granted however expensive and in many ways flawed it may be. We still have the opportunity to see the best doctors and benefit from the best technology in the world.

Another example of the charity dilemma is one that a classmate of mine once pointed out during college. Our college was hosting a drive for "Project Life", a group that ran blood tests free of charge in order to match possible bone marrow donors for leukemia patients. She pointed out to me that for the hundreds of dollars they spent testing students, there would be maybe 1 in 1000 matches (or more). Then, once a possible match was made, the person could still refuse to go through the extremely painful donation procedure. And even after a patient received the donation, his/her health was not guaranteed to improve. Her argument was that while she did not want to refuse any leukemia patient the hope for a cure, her question was, couldn't the thousands of dollars spent on testing for potential matches be spent actually saving the lives of other children who could be saved for certain? Food for thought....speaking of food, here is how the tables were decorated.

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