Today is a serious entry.
This past week around the world has been World Diabetes Week, when there has been lots of mention of “diabetes” on the various forms of media. I just knew in my guts that there was going to be a bit of angst, and even suggested to a type 1 diabetes (T1D) group on Facebook that we needed to be patient with the mis-information we were bound to see. But I have been left gasping by some of the rubbish that has happened.
Now my approach to social media, and this is my personal rule of thumb that helps me stay calm and out of trouble on Facebook, so this is not a slight on any individual or group, is that of 100 people, 50 don’t know what they are talking about. Of the remaining 50, 25 are exaggerating. Of the remaining 25, half have a glass-half-empty view of life. So this leaves me with a small percentage of what I see flow past on Facebook that I bother to read and absorb. But, when you consider that there are far more people not on Facebook than those that are, and many people don’t bother to write about their experiences or make a contribution to a discussion, I reckon I’m being very conservative by taking the people who know what they are talking about and multiplying the number by 10. Then you are getting towards a representative number of the general community who have these same experiences. Maybe the number to multiply by is 100; who knows. I’m just trying to be conservative.
In the past week we have heard stories of people being mis-diagnosed by doctors. We’ve heard stories of quacks who believe you can cure T1D by eating more of some sort of vegetable. There have been the inevitable squabbles between some in the T1D community and those in the T2D community. And we’ve heard the harrowing stories of young children who died because of incompetence in the health process somewhere. None of that is new, sadly, as we see this sort of stuff all the time. There’s just a little more of it over the past week.
But what we have seen in the last week that is entirely avoidable, is the dangerous incompetence of the media. This is where mere words on a computer just cannot describe adequately the laziness, stupidity, incompetence and irresponsibility displayed by a section of society that goes on about how hard done by they are since the advent of the internet. The media, which includes newspapers, web news services, TV drama, movies, radio, TV talk shows, as well as other sources of news/information on the web, choose almost inevitably to make mention of “diabetes” without bothering to preface it with TYPE 1 or TYPE 2. Yes, there you have it. That is 95% of the point that I am trying to make. No really, try to stop laughing, that is 95% the problem I am talking about. By making reference to only “diabetes”, stretched over years and decades, Joe Public has been conditioned to think of “diabetes” in a manner appropriate to 90% of the diabetes in the community, ie. type 2 diabetes.
I can hear you thinking now, “Well 90%. That’s most of them so it’s a good rule-of-thumb”. But what you never hear in the media is that the remaining 10% is made up mainly of people living with type 1 diabetes, which is A DIFFERENT ILLNESS WITH SIMILAR SYMPTOMS. T1D cannot be avoided. It is in the same group of many illness such as Multiple Sclerosis, which are autoimmune diseases that science is yet to fully understand. These illnesses happen when the body turns on itself and, in the case of T1D, kill the vital cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Give yourself a little pinch now and say thank-you for still having your special insulin cells.
By not specifying, the media have dumbed down Joe Public to the point where he doesn’t know, doesn’t care and thinks that anyone with “diabetes” has given it to themselves because they ate too much rubbish food and then sat on the couch without getting any exercise. And this past week of heightened media reference has strengthened Joe Publics opinion, if he has one, that diabetics did it to themselves and they should stop moaning.
The whole thing got dangerous earlier in the week when news hit the Facebook T1D group that the BBC, yes the BBC and it saddens me to even be writing these words, has put to air a “drama” on British TV screens that had a mistake in it that continues the dumbing down and mis-information to dangerous levels. Briefly, one of the characters was a young female who lives with T1D. Her blood sugar level was going low, known as a HYPO, so another character, a pharmacist, gave her an injection of insulin.
“So …….. ?” I hear you asking. Well that little bit of “dramatic licence” as the writer termed it, would likely kill the young girl. Her blood sugar level would have dropped further, she would have passed into a coma as her brain suffered from lack of glucose, suffered brain damage over the next few hours, then shut down completely. And when the writer was confronted by incensed type 1’s from around the world, rather than apologise for an error and allow the BBC to publish a correction, she hid behind the “dramatic licence” shield. She may as well have said that driving through a packed school crossing while drunk, on drugs and texting on the phone is all allowed because of “dramatic licence”.
This is just one more step on the road of dumbing down that has been happening over the past 20 years. When did it become a badge of honour for people to claim that they don’t know something? And why is the media, who bemoans their changing world, feeding this frenzy of foolishness? They could earn themselves a seat back at the table of responsible professionals by always specifying type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They could insist that writers do their homework and “get it right” before their work is broadcast to the public.
The media of the modern world could reclaim what they once held up as their badge of honour – PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS.