Diabetes as Sotomayor's enabler

A number of articles have questioned –indirectly or directly– whether Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s diabetes will have a negative impact on her ability to serve. Although often these questions come out of ignorance, other Type I diabetics quietly admit that people who’ve had diabetes for decades may not be perfectly healthy and may have a diminished life expectancy. (See Diabetes and the Supreme Court.)

Today’s New York Times (Court Nominee Manages Diabetes With Discipline) goes to a new extreme, essentially arguing that Sotomayor’s diabetes and how she’s managed it are what enabled her to reach this point. In particular:

  • “That no-nonsense attitude, combined with the attention to detail that characterizes her legal opinions, has been a hallmark of [her] approach to… diabetes.”
  • Her diagnosis at age 8 “marked a turning point… Sonia was listless and disinterested in school… but diagnosis and treatment helped lead to ‘a seminal change.’
  • Originally, Sotomayor expected to lose decades off her life, which got her to focus on achieving more
  • Now she’s stopped thinking about premature death but takes care of herself very well

Certainly there may be plenty of truth to these points, but they come across to me as propoganda. I’d be willing to bet the author and editor are strong Sotomayor supporters.

The Reluctant Diabetic (a Type I diagnosed in early adulthood) has mixed feelings about how Sotomayor has been portrayed and about this article in particular.

I have yet to see anyone really delve into the question of what 46 years of diabetes does to one’s health. Yes, I understand that Sotomayor’s doctor claims that she has consistently had an A1c of under 6.5 for as long as he has known her. But then this cynical little voice in me starts asking questions. “Really?” it says. “She doesn’t wear an insulin pump, she’s out eating chinese dumplings, she’s had this disease since well before the advent of fast-acting synthetic insulin and electronic glucometers, and she’ s NEVER had an A1c of over 6.5?” How is that possible? She grew up in a poor family in a time when the treatment options sucked. Plus, the A1c only began being recommended as a test for diabetics in the mid-70s, and god knows that peeing on sticks was never really the most accurate way of keeping track of your blood sugar. How is it possible to know what the first three decades of Sotomayor’s diabetes really looked like?

(To be fair, the article doesn’t actually say she’s never had an A1c of over 6.5, but I agree with Reluctant’s sentiment.)

July 10, 2009

3 thoughts on “Diabetes as Sotomayor's enabler”

  1. Unfortunately, the NYT lately has not been at the forefront of objective journalism. In this case, I’m inclined to agree with Reluctant’s skepticism.

    The standard of <7 A1c was set years ago and is now a bit outdated and simplistic. A diabetic with unstable BGs can still have an “acceptable” A1c by experiencing lots of highs and lots of dangerous lows, which is not something we type 1s think of as “control.”

    And on the article itself: come on. Diabetes turned around changed outlook on life and learning…at age 8? These general statements describing how diabetes has affected her life and actions as a judge are presumptuous and quite a bit of a stretch for the reporter to make.

    It’s interesting to view this public figure through her life as a diabetic, but I think it’s safe to assume most people are more interested in her life as a judge.

    As a journalism school grad and type 1 diabetic, I’m calling b.s. on this one.

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