In February 2017, Shane Patrick Boyle started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for “a month of insulin.” A few weeks later, he died after developing diabetic ketoacidosis. Although several local outlets reported on Boyle’s death at the time, it wasn’t until November 2017 that Boyle’s story reached many readers, thanks in part to a Facebook post from United States Sen. Bernie Sanders linking to an article in The Nation about the rising cost of insulin:
We cannot call ourselves a great country as long our young people are literally dying because they cannot afford life-saving medication. This young man, Shane Patrick Boyle, died on March 18 after his GoFundMe campaign to pay for insulin came up $50 short. Something has got to change. Our job is to stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and enact policies that make prescription drugs affordable for everyone—not ones that make the CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry rich.
In addition to highlighting the sad circumstances surrounding Boyle’s death, The Nation also pointed to Alec Raeshawn Smith, a 26-year-old who died in June after he lost his insurance and started to ration his insulin:
Alec Raeshawn Smith, age 26, was found dead in his apartment on June 27. He was rationing his insulin after he aged out of his parent’s insurance coverage. The sad fact is more people would be alive today if insulin was affordable for all Americans.
The deaths of Smith and Boyle and their reported struggles with health insurance were met with skepticism by some readers. Others encountered this news on social media, where it was shared with incomplete or incorrect information. For instance, comedian David Anthony conflated the deaths of these two individuals when he wrote that a 26-year-old had started a GoFundMe to get insulin:
For the rest of my life I will never forget a 26 year old started a gofundme to get insulin, didn’t get the amount he needed and died rationing his not costly medicine. Just before Thanksgiving.
— Dave Anthony (@daveanthony) November 24, 2017
Alec Raeshawn Smith was 26 years old at the time of his death; however, we have not been able to find anything to indicate that he had set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for insulin. (A fundraiser was set up after his death to cover funeral costs.) Shane Patrick Boyle, on the other hand, was older when he died, and he did set up a fundraiser for medication.
Smith passed away on 27 June 2017. In his obituary, his family asked for donations to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and encouraged everyone to sign a petition for affordable health care:
In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be given to Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, www.jdrf.org. We would also like to encourage everyone to go to www.jdrf.org and sign the Coverage 2 Control petition which will provide affordability, choice and coverage for people with Diabetes.
Boyle died of the same treatable complication that killed Smith: diabetic ketoacidosis. Before his death on 18 March 2017, he set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for one month of insulin:
The only archived version of this campaign is from 23 March 2017, five days after Boyle’s death. Although this copy shows that Boyle had raised $1,590 of a $750 goal, it appears that the majority of this money was raised after his passing. (All eight comments were posted in the days following Boyle’s death and the visible donations, more than $200, were posted within a day of its archival date.)
Ted Closson, a comic book artist and friend of Boyle’s, wrote that Boyle was “$50 shy of his goal” for over two weeks:
A second GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a memorial for Boyle and his mother also suggests that the fundraiser was short of the $750 goal at the time of Boyle’s passing (emphasis ours):
The world lost a wonderful man due to complications of type 1 diabetes. My cousin, Shane Boyle, put everything into taking care of his ailing mother at the expense of his own needs. Shane’s mother, Judy Boyle, passed away on March 11th and we lost Shane to diabetes exactly a week later on March 18th.
After his death, we learned that Shane lost his prescription benefits when he moved to Mena, Arkansas to care for his mom. We found a GoFundMe where he was trying to raise $750 to get just one more month of insulin and supplies. Unfortunately, he didn’t get help in time. Shane died because he was trying to stretch out his life saving insulin to make it last longer.
Shane was working hard to take care of his mother’s funeral arrangements when he died. Her service had to be cancelled because of the unexpected financial burden of losing two family members in a week’s time. I am hoping we can raise the funds for a combined funeral service for Shane and Judy Boyle. If we can raise more than is needed for the service, any remaining funds would go to a charity that provides insulin to diabetics like Shane. We don’t want other families to suffer the pain of losing a loved one because they couldn’t afford medications.
Thank you for any help you can provide, even if all you can offer is a kind message or sharing a special memory.
Vice also mentioned the circumstances surrounding Boyle’s death in a story about the rising price of insulin.
Long before Boyle launched a fundraising campaign, he worried about a Trump presidency’s effects on the price of insulin. Immediately after the election, on 9 November 2016, Boyle wrote on Facebook (emphasis ours):
Last night/ this morning, I was so depressed I did not want to live in this world anymore (and as a type one diabetic, I honestly don’t know how long I will live if I lose access to affordable healthcare). Today, I feel more optimistic, not because I think everything is going to be okay, but because I have seen so many of your posts, recognizing the fight that is ahead, and talking about organizing, not just sitting back and complaining or planning for the next election.