News: Do people with Type 2 diabetes deserve the stigma?

An article published in the Toronto Star brings this question to mind today. The piece (originally from the Chicago Tribune)


An article published in the Toronto Star brings this question to mind today. The piece (originally from the Chicago Tribune) reports on the “war” between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics.

In the Type 1 corner: Those who suffer from this disease just hate being confused with Type 2s. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disorder and it is not brought on by lifestyle and diet, while lack of healthy diet and exercise are risk factors for Type 2.

‘I’m sorry, but I hate Type 2. I call it the wuss version,’ one Type 1 sufferer wrote on a diabetes blog.

One of the problems with clumping Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes together, the article says, is that Type 1’s resent having to endure the stigma associated with Type 2 diabetes. After all, no amount of healthy living can prevent or cure this form of diabetes. Why should Type 1’s have to wear the black mark that often comes with a Type-2 diagnosis?

But the question is, why should Type-2 sufferers have to endure these negative attitudes either? To blame a Type-2 diabetes sufferer for her condition is to make a whole host of assumptions about the way she lives her life, many of which may not be true. Says one Type-2 sufferer in the Tribune piece, “I ate and dieted very carefully, but until I got the proper medicines, my blood sugar control wasn’t good.’

Even if a Type-2 sufferer doesn’t make the healthy choices that can ward off the condition, why is it OK to blame someone for incurring an illness related to the lifestyle they live? Many diseases develop as a result of lifestyle choices, but you don’t see the same degree of animosity towards those with emphysema, for example, as you do towards those who are overweight or living with Type 2 diabetes. This attitude sets up a dynamic where healthy living is virtuous or morally good and not doing so is morally bad. But this issue is not so black and white. For example, recent Canadian research suggests that poverty is a leading cause of Type 2 diabetes, especially for women.

Chastising someone for having Type 2 diabetes, even if lifestyle choices are a contributing factor, isn’t going to solve the diabetes epidemic in this country’when was the last time feeling guilty made you want to run out and exercise?

Am I wrong in thinking that people with Type 2 diabetes don’t deserve the stigma that comes with the disease? What do you think?

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