The Ethics of Diabetes

I’ve been following discussions about whether people with Diabetes should disclose their condition when applying for a driver’s license. I’ve been shocked at how many don’t - even if legally required to do so. This makes me wonder how many other circumstances arise when we feel our right to privacy trumps legal or moral obligations that require us to disclose our condition. With employers, schools, co-workers, insurers, etc.? Are we doing ourselves a favor, or indirectly harming others in a similar situation? If another person with diabetes caused harm to you or your family (due to a low, for example) would that change how you feel? Do you have moral or religious qualms when it comes to embryonic stem cell research? How do you reconcile competing moral and legal issues?


I think full disclosure is the ethical route. If I’m going to be the victim of discrimination because of my diabetes, I’ll fight that battle when it arises. On a practical level, hiding it only plays into the hands of the ill-informed and misinformed. If I’ve got something to hide, how can I complain that people are suspcious of what I’m hiding?

Embryonic Stem Cells

If someone has to die so that I can live longer - forget it. If you believe an embryo is a life, there’s no way to justify killing it for your own benefit. If you don’t believe an embryo is a life, there is no ethical or moral dilemna to deal with. It is, after all, a matter of belief rather than science, to decide when life begins or ends.


It seems to me that you have given some thought to this. I have, too but am always curious about how and why people approach identical issues with different opinions. Thanks a million.

I agree full disclosure is the correct thing to do. The Calif. DMV does ask but all they do is check to ensure your in control and test your vision more often. If you hide it… why ? Is it something to be embarrassed about ? My family and friends are all part of my support gang and kick me when I need it. The only way to educate “the masses” is to inform them and who better to teach ? Those that have…

I don’t think the question arose when I got my license. Just do I have a physical or mental disability. Now I did tell my insurance company and they wanted to not cover me until I assured them it was controlled.

All I know is that in Minnesota, if you lie on the dl app, and it’s discovered, your license will be permanently revoked. Years ago the question was “have you ever passed out due to a medical condition” and I truthfully said no. Then pretty soon it said, “do you take insulin” and I couldn’t escape disclosure.
Back in the early 70’s when I was looking for my first job, discrimination was very routine, In fact, most of the apps asked if you had any of the following diseases and of course db was included. After several rejections, I stopped marking it down and felt it was necessary.

That is a dilemma, Kathy. If there are no laws to protect you against discrimination you’ve got a hard choice. I, fortunately, never had to come up against it because I was employed when I was diagnosed and I still have the same job.

So, if you know that acting ethically by disclosing will be used against you in an unethical way, is it ethical to refuse to disclose?

Now I’m getting a headache.

Here in PA I haven’t come across a person that was ever asked if they had diabetes.You brought up a very good question.Of course,I didn’t have diabetes at the time when I first got my license. It is something to think about.

I have always regarded full disclosure as the best policy. now having said that I do not walk down the street proclaiming my diabetes. i think disclosure is the right thing to do provided a person needs ot know, or can legitimately help if a problem happens. So i do not disclose it at each ride in a theme park, I do however ler the medical staff know I am on property. That is the compromise I make.

I beleive that Stem cells for research is correct, if those cells are going to be destroyed anyway. i do not draw a line at this is a potential human therefore it cannot be used. I do think that if stem cells are being destroyed, and a better use can be made, it should be made. I knwo people will disagree with that statement and i understand completely. I just disagree with the critics of my belief.

Now for my ethical issue. I am wrestling with two things, first, the amount of waste from diabetic products just makes me sick. Tomorrow i have to change my site and when the trash is accumulated I just think it is awful. Surely that trash can be decreased.

Second, i beleive that selling diabetic supplies on Ebay or other outlets is just not right. Ok, your insurance bought it, you paid a deductible and all, but so many people need supplies and cannot get them. I feel that if I have a non prescription item that is excess, test strips, meters, lancets, alcohol pads etc, really need to eb given away. When everyone who needs them has them then fine selling is ok. I doubt that day will ever occur.

Just some thoguhts.

rick phillips

I believe full disclosure is the ethic option as well. Oklahoma requires you to mark down something if you have diabetes…the restriction on the license says “food, fruit, or candy within reach of the driver”. When I was younger I had a bit of lead foot and a hot car…so I got pulled over more than my fair share :slight_smile: Has a cop ever hassled me about the food restriction? Only once, when I rolled a three-way stop sign on campus by the dorms (and of course at that time I didn’t have any food in the truck :-/ That being said, I am glad that rule is there.
Working in healthcare, I have come to the decision that healthcare (and health) are not human rights, as so many people abuse themselves (through smoking, over-eating, etc). So, I think that if you take your health for granted (i.e. uncontrolled diabetes) which indirectly affects my health and safety (being a fellow motorist), then I think you need a restriction placed on you. A bit utilitarian ethical perspective (greatest good for the greatest number of people, sometimes at the expense of a few), but I think if you can’t control yourself, how are you to control a car that weights 2000 lbs and can kill someone if not properly handled?
I may be flawed in my perspective on stem cells, but I think it depends on where the stem cells came from and for what use they will provide. For example using ublilical cord stem cells to prevent/cure specific pediatric diseases seems appropriate to me because it benefits the individual, and those stem cells were not set to become a single human–they were part of a human already). The jury is still out for me at the moment regarding adult and other embryonic stem cells in research. I know research is obviously the key, and I would like to someday see a cure for diabetes , but I’m not sure at what price.

There are some laws that prevent them from asking directly. When I got my license renewed, the questions were:
do you have any medical condition that affects your driving? Have you ever passed out due to a medical condition?

Whether or not it is ethical for me to tell that I have diabetes is a good question. But I am under no legal obligation to disclose it.

As for future employers, I would only disclose my diabetes after I am employed. I have a right to do this. I will not apply for any job that my diabetes will prevent me from doing well. What if I disclose fully and have potential employers with misconceptions about my diabetes?? Not something that I am willing to risk.

The stem cell question is complicated, but the current situation is that people are allowed to produce embryos and throw them away. I think that the opportunity to give more life would be better. But I do agree that there is a fine line somewhere (just where?). Much of the research is using (our own) adult stem cells! This is great, I think. I cannot understand how use of adult stem cells would be controversial. But because of the name, I bet some people will still be wary of it.

A couple of months after my diagnosis in '94, I moved back to Oklahoma after being discharged (for diabetes) from the Army. I also answered the DL question in the same way. It was not a factor, but my Dad’s best friend was the commissioned of the Department of Public Safety - a real law and order guy. From various chats with him I came to understand in no uncertain terms that it was always best to try and play by the rule and spirit of the law. While it might be inconvenient in the short term, in the long run it ends up being both simpler and provides for more peace of mind.

For me, it also helps that I have never been pulled over individually with the exception of once in 1983. Perhaps this another example of the benefits of assiduously playing by the rules.

To clarify my approach to the stem cell issue, I have no qualms about those derived from umbilical cord blood or adult stem cells. Those do not have the moral baggage that comes with the use of fetal stems that were created for an altogether different purpose. I can understand the rationale that if they were going to be destroyed anyway that it might be desirable to attempt to have some good come from that destruction. Yet, that does not negate the fact that in either event destruction will in fact take place. It took a long time for me to wrap my head around the teachings of my faith (Roman Catholic) in this regard. They hold that destruction - even if it takes place in connection with what might be viewed as a laudable goal - is destruction of a human life and something that is to be deplored. After much introspection and prayer I came to resolve it in my mind in accordance with their teachings. Perhaps that is based on the theory that I do not hold with the “have it your way” theory of theology. Perhaps it is because we are given challenges in life that force us to make difficult decisions upon which our long term spiritual outcomes are judged. If a person does not share this outlook or beliefs, that is their choice, but they are no less responsible for being the best, most just and ethically responsible member of humanity that they can be.