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Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has announced that, despite growing protest, it will not cancel its February 18th fundraiser at Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort. But it also said it would not go back to “controversial venues” in the future. That’s not good enough.

Dana-Farber should cancel. In defense of this decision, the institute’s president and CEO, Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, said that contracts have been signed and a large number of people have committed to attend. “Cancelling the event outright would only deny much-needed resources for research and care,” she said in a news release.


That’s too simple a view. “Cancelling the event outright” would actually be a strong statement from a world-renowned organization, affirming that it will not abet a President who incites exclusion and prejudice, threatens the health of our planet, would take health care away from millions, engages in risky and combative rhetoric in a volatile world, and seems intent on American isolationism in an era of inescapable interdependency. It would be a declaration that even protecting its own self-interest and noble mission is not reason enough for Dana-Farber to remain a bystander to the President’s threats to pull the rug out from under some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.

In the short term, canceling would be costly to Dana-Farber. Some donors would take exception. Reprisals would be possible — President Trump and his legions have shown themselves capable of vindictive language and behaviors remarkable even for Washington. But as C.S. Lewis once wrote in The Screwtape Letters, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” It is precisely because such deeds are inconvenient that they are notable and especially important.

Dana-Farber leaders say they want to “stay out of politics.” But this is a time when inaction is every bit as political as action.


The fight to care for, cure, and prevent cancer is as worthy a struggle as a civilized nation can imagine. But the “denial of much-needed resources” is now a threat to many vulnerable people in the world who are far less able to defend themselves than Dana-Farber. “Much needed resources” are headed for the cutting floor in the Trump administration — for the poor in our nation and other nations whose cancers may well go undetected, let alone treated, with diminishing funds; for the chronically ill; for the defenders of environmental sustainability; and for the hungry in low income countries who need our generosity.

Make no mistake, this administration has already shown its disdain for science as the proper basis for decision making, so one can only wonder how that might come back to haunt even Dana-Farber and its wonderful mission.

Here is an idea: if Dana-Farber cancels its event, all good-willed donors should double their contribution this year out of respect for the cancer center’s courage. After that, if the Trump administration were to lift a finger to punish Dana-Farber for its courage, let the nation ring with outrage in solidarity that anyone in Washington, not just the President, would dare to impede the path-finding work of such a treasured American institution.

Donald M. Berwick, MD, is the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Editor’s note: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute declined STAT’s invitation to submit a First Opinion explaining why it plans to move forward with its annual fundraiser at the Mar-a-Lago resort. You can read its prepared statement on the issue here.

  • Dr. Berwick should ferret out more information on this – two Iraqi doctors who were to receive the featured awards from Dana Farber at this event found themselves unable to attend as they were unable to get back into the U.S. with the immigration ban, as were a number of graduate medical students who were to be present at tonight’s event. The projected net from this fundraising event isn’t all that stellar if one looks at last year’s numbers. The price to join Mar a Lago doubled this year to $200,000, wonder how much it costs to hold a fundraiser. I’d say they should have canceled.

  • Dr. Berwick has been known for years to be politically on the far left. His position now shows that he has come “unhinged” at the thought of Trump. But he wishes to punish an institution, and push his leftist views, to make a political statement. He must be ignorant of the fact that Dr. Price, new HHS head…chosen specifically by President Trump, is a fine physician who puts the patient first. And that Dr. Price and others in Congress have done their best, but to no avail, as Obama would (and did) veto everything, to protect patients…citizens…doctor..from the ruinous Obamacare. I was privileged to have attended the first Price hearing. He is a fine physician, who gives the impression as he speaks that he is a classic old country doctor, despite his advanced credentials as an orthopedic surgeon. He will have a strong hand in deciding what plan the government has. To assault Trump before anything has been done is unscientific. To fail to recognize the disaster that Obamacare is, with staggering premium increases for those who actually pay them, for the false promise of insurance for those who bought the bronze or silver plans with $6-12,000 deductibles, to continue to realize the insult to doctors that the low reimbursement that Medicaid…expanded numbers now…makes me wonder why Dr. Berwick does not want improvement.

  • Dr. Berwick,

    What’s wrong with making use of this facility to perhaps arrange for a meeting with President Trump and request him to deliver on his promise of Medicare dug price negotiation, which could potentially benefit tens and million of seniors? Your former role at CMS should enable you to have some special insight on this topic, right?

  • Dr. Berwick is another lefty loser who can’t fathom why his Democratic Party has been resoundly rejected by the deplorable electorate. Keep protesting Don as the Democrats become more and more a coastal party of elites who will continue to lose more elections.

  • I agree with Dr. Berwick. Dana Farber has to make a decision as to whether it finds all the rhetoric and actions – including the appointment of a HHS head with all kinds of insider trading…- offensive or not. If they find it offensive, they should have the courage to stand up and make a statement by canceling this event. Besides, the Trump family is trying to benefit their businesses from the power of the presidency – going to the extent of publicly criticizing retailers. Dana Farber has to decide whether it will be part to this scam or do the right thing by cancelling. The times are different and citizens and institutions have to take a stand against kleptocracy.

  • “if Dana-Farber cancels its event, all good-willed donors should double their contribution this year out of respect for the cancer center’s courage. ” why not, its easy to be generous when its not your money…

  • As a physician I ask that the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute cancels the fundraiser event in Mar-a-Lago in February and any future events in any Trump’s properties. His policies in healthcare and sciences are detrimental for the US citizens.

    • what trump “policies in healthcare and sciences are detrimental for the US citizens”? why mention that you’re a physician? do you think your job gives your greater credibility?

  • It’s so called global warming science that he doesn’t believe. So, all the whiners want to cancel a cancer fundraiser because they don’t like Trump……Too bad. Get a life and move on. It’s not all about you. He is the President, live with it. And who said much needed resources are going away? More BS.

  • Cancel at MarLago. There is no doubt donations will go up. Donors should start calling now and cancelling. The money that would have been spent at MarLago should be added to the funds that would have been donated on site. I predict that if Dana-Farber doesn’t change locations they will feel the sting of this weakly veiled bribe of the Brand-In-Chief with a call for a donation boycott. D-F needs to know that justice trumps dollars.

  • Dana Farber Cancer Institute is a disgrace with their two forked rhetoric on staying at this venue but not in the future! President Trump is gracious enough to host charities at his private estate! The people in charge of the event at Dana Farber (on his property!) need to respect the person who made their fundraising event possible!!

    • Dear Lily, you are aware that the Brand-in-Chief charges for the use of the facility. If he is a billionaire (show the U.S. the taxes), it is time he stops making profit on “charity.” Millions of his campaign funds went himself and his brands. Taxpayers are picking up the rents at tRump tower NY as other occupants leave the property. Taxpayers are subsidizing too many Brand-in-Chief businesses already.

    • Carol: why can’t trump “make a profit off charity”? all hotels charge charities for their amenities, why can’t trump? do you demand the hiltons give free use of their hotels to charities? get real…

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