Sotomayor’s Diabetes — Our “Teachable Moment”

1) the first Latina, 2) just the third woman, and 3) the first Type 1 diabetic (first known chronic illness survivor) to be considered for the high court?

A massive day for Type 1 diabetes at the news!   Which instantly spurred renewed buzz among the diabetes community concerning the way the mainstream media “just can’t get diabetes”

You can’t blame some of us for being uncomfortable with all the TIME Magazine headline: “Sotomayor’s Diabetes: Will it Be a Handicap? ”  Hell, no.  Being a judge is a desk job, for God’s sake — all she needs is can of regular Coke useful, just in case.   And btw, Sotomayor’s been performing the judge job for more than 15 years already.

Some Twitterers believed the TIME article “makes us seem like we’re heroin addicts!” Or “like we’re going to drop dead.”   I am not sure I agree that it was all THAT negative, but if we’re going to get media attention, I think it’s really important to at least explain this illness factually.

TIME talked about an insulin pump as a “permanent” fixture, that is “inserted beneath the skin.” Close, but nevertheless somewhat misleading…

The journalist who interviewed me for this article (“Diabetes Groups Hail Obama Court Select”) didn’t even know Type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes existed, he told me. He had only ever heard of Form 2, and gestational, the kind his wife had during pregnancy.   Hmmm…

The very best thing about this AFP narrative, should you ask me, is that the input from William Ahearn of JDRF, noting that Sotomayor’s nomination gives us “a teachable moment” — an opportunity to describe the disease to the broader US public, and “an exemplary minute” for showing us just how far we can go.

As if on queue, a nice post looked at pointing out there is no need to fret about Sotomayor’s diabetes: ‘Hey Public, it’s really treatable, and actually compels people to take meticulous care of themselves!’ (my synopsis).

Newsweek’s Kate Daily writes: “Just last ditchk, a Texas detective won a discrimination suit against the FBI, who didn’t hire him since he handled his diabetes with insulin shots, not a pump. President Obama deserves credit for looking at Sotomayor’s real qualifications — not her medical record — when making his choice.”

Wait, the FBI needed something against injection treatment?   I am letting you go for now… And btw, hat’s off to new Special Agent Jeff Kapche (anonymity not mandatory?)

Meanwhile, the WSJ Health Blog wrote in its own Sotomayor coverage: “Many people today question whether the diabetes debate is actually just code speech to state that the judge looks overweight and so presumed unhealthy.”

Huh? She’s TYPE ONE, Folks.   Certainly, our teachable moment is in peril here. In any case, if Sotomayor is thought of overly obese, how do folks like Dick Cheney and Helmut Kohl ever acquire support as politicians?   Or is it just the girls that aren’t permitted to look “big”?

The Wall St Journalfollowup piece at least asked a few MDs concerning diabetes. To which they responded, “it’s a non-issue.”   How true, in the sense that “there’s simply no reason why the fact that she has diabetes must be a factor in her longevity or should affect her ability to function.”

Yet if were actually a non-issue, why do they all be talking about it?

A Call-to-Action: Let’s use this “teachable moment” to help the Media help the People to Understand.   By that I mean, please keep your eyes peeled for ongoing protection of Sotomayor’s diabetes, and please post comments letting journalists know how they have done representing this particular illness. These tales will linger for a while, so let’s be sure Type 1 diabetes at least has a fair shake.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog concentrated on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and does not stick to Healthline’s editorial guidelines. For more information regarding Healthline’s venture with Diabetes Mine, please click here.

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