Don’t keep them guessing

Just in case....

We try as hard as we can to avoid it, but sometimes our blood sugars take a nose-dive and we lapse into behaviors that are unusual. We appear inattentive, distracted, unfocused, erratic, violent… the list goes on, and I don’t need to complete it. I know the symptoms of hypoglycemia all too well; if you’re reading this, you probably do, too. But many people don’t.

Yesterday, Mike Hoskins, usually blogging at The Diabetics Corner Booth, guest-posted on Diabetes Mine with an article about Police Training on Diabetes. He notes how many police can’t spot the symptoms of hypoglycemia, and therefore don’t respond appropriately. Too often, these people are assumed to be drunk, high, or just plain rebellious, and police use force in trying to restrain and subdue them and do nothing to treat the situation.

Overall, the consensus seems to be to give cops more training. Teach them to identify the symptoms, to diagnose the person’s condition, and how to treat them. The ADA has created a 20-minute video to address the matter. Some say that maybe that’s not even going far enough.

I disagree. Training may help, but it’s not a solution.  Police have enough unusual behaviors to try to interpret: those indicative of someone who just committed robbery, those of child abductors, potential terrorist activities. In all of these cases, the police err on the side of caution and detain or restrain the “subject” until a more definitive assessment of the erratic behavior can be made.

When it comes to diabetes, or any medical condition for that matter, the police shouldn’t have to guess. They should be able to tell – and tell quickly – that you have a serious medical condition that needs attention. If you live with diabetes, you probably carry a blood glucose meter with you because you know the danger of guessing.  If you are familiar iwth dLife, you’ve no doubt heard the common refrain “Test, Don’t Guess.”  You know your body well, but don’t judge what you do solely by how you feel.  So why should the police have to guess if you’re drunk or diabetic? High or hypo? They shouldn’t.


It’s the most common form of wearable medical ID, and the police are trained to look for it. If they try to check a pulse, they’ll see it. If you’re flailing your arms violently and they try to restrain you, they’ll hold you by the wrists and feel it. Not so with a necklace or a tattoo. An insulin pump, if spotted and identified, is a sure indicator of diabetes – but that’s a big if, and when seen, they’re often mistaken to be something else.   A bracelet with a universal icon worn on the wrist is indisputable.

Look, I do not condone the use of excessive force towards someone suffering a hypoglycemic attack. It both disgusts me and terrifies me, and there’s no excuse for it. But it is understandable for someone to not know why someone is behaving the way they are. Drive around the streets of Hoboken, New Jersey (more bars per square mile in the U.S.), certain parts of Manhattan, or nearly any college campus on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see people stumbling through the streets. When the vast majority of those people are drunk, it’s understandable for a cop not know that in one particular case, the person was really a T1D with a low blood sugar.

Give them a sign. Put your bracelet on your right wrist. If you don’t have one, go to MedicAlert, Lauren’s Hope, or one of the many other sites that sell these bracelets and get one.  Do it to help others help you.

When it comes to our own diabetes care, we know better than to guess, and we know our bodies better than anyone else. But when we can’t communicate, it’s up to others. Make sure they know.

Don’t make them guess.

Posted on March 9, 2012, in Diabetes, News and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.


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