Many health experts consider diabetes to be the biggest public health
problem of the 21st century. Consider these sobering statistics from
the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse:
- 18.8 million people in the United States have been
diagnosed with diabetes.
- It's estimated that an additional 7 million people have
the disease, but don't know it.
- Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death
in this country.
- Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke
and a leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower limb
amputations, and new cases of blindness.
- At any given age, a person with diabetes’ overall risk
of death is twice that of those people of the same age without diabetes.
Why the grim statistics for a disease that can be controlled or even
prevented? According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), an
umbrella organization of over 200 national diabetes associations around the
world, a major problem is lack of public attention to the early diagnosis and
management of this disease—and to people's fundamental human rights to life and
health. As hard as it is to believe in a country as wealthy as the U.S., there
are millions of Americans with diabetes that go undiagnosed until complications
arise, lack access to affordable health care, medicines, and needed equipment,
and are denied opportunities to manage their diabetes properly in schools and
The IDF strongly believes that those with diabetes can play an essential
part in confronting this silent killer by knowing their rights, so they
developed an International Charter of Rights and Responsibilities of People
With Diabetes (see the document at
Do you know your rights and responsibilities as a person with diabetes? In a
1. You have the
right to care.
Good healthcare is essential for everyone, including those with diabetes.
You deserve access to affordable and quality healthcare at all stages of your
life. When receiving diabetic services, you should expect to be treated with
respect and dignity and allowed to make complaints about any aspect of your
healthcare without it affecting your treatment.
2. You have
the right to information and education.
Knowledge is power! You should expect your healthcare providers to give you
sufficient education about managing your disease, and information about where
to access additional resources for learning. You should be allowed to be
involved in planning your own healthcare and setting your health goals. You
should be given the names, dosages, actions, and possible side effects of any
medications your healthcare provider wants you to take. You should have access
to your own medical records, as well as the right to share that information
with others only as you deem necessary.
3. You have
the right to social justice.
You have the right to be treated fairly in the workplace, at school, and in
other public settings. You must be allowed time and privacy as well as a clean
and safe place for blood sugar monitoring and medication administration, as
well as sufficient time off for medical appointments. You should also have
access to affordable medications and monitoring technologies.
Are all of these rights legally enforceable? Many of them are. While you may
have to champion your own cause when it comes to insisting upon adequate
diabetic education at your doctor's office, you can get legal help to end
discrimination at school, work, and other settings if you are being treated
unfairly because of your diabetes or if they refuse to allow you to perform
daily diabetes care. One place to start is by talking to a legal advocate through
the American Diabetes Association. By calling 1-800-DIABETES, you'll be put in
touch with someone who can help you to understand your legal rights and help
you to take action.
Along with rights come responsibilities. The IDF lays out some major
responsibilities for those with diabetes. These include:
- Being honest with your healthcare providers about all
aspects of your life that may influence your diabetic care, such as your
lifestyle behavior, the medications you take, and your allergies.
- Carrying through with the agreed-upon treatment plan
for your diabetes, such as blood sugar monitoring, medications, and
healthy lifestyle behaviors.
- Sharing any problems you're having with your diabetes
management with your healthcare providers so the plan can be revised.
Telling others in your life about your diabetes if
this knowledge can help them to support you, such as those at home, in the
workplace, and at school.