Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Diabetes and schools: a thorny ethical problem

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As Bev observed in a post yesterday, California schools will now be required to ensure that diabetic kids get their medical needs met during school hours. Parents are relieved by the settlement, which was reached between the California Department of Education and two school districts (on one side) and four families with diabetic children, working in conjunction with the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

It's a thorny issue. If you require by law that kids be in school during specified hours, you'd better make darn sure you can meet their needs while they're there. As Michelle Ferry, mom of a seven-year-old boy with diabetes, observed "If I had a child in a wheelchair, they wouldn't expect me to come in and take them out of a wheelchair" as necessary throughout the school day. Michelle, you see, was required to drop everything and come running to the school when her son needed a shot because there was no one at the school willing/qualified/permitted to administer it.

While she has a point, you could also argue that helping a (developmentally normal) child in and out of a wheelchair doesn't require special training. Helping a child monitor and adjust his or her blood sugar level most certainly does. Understandably, school administrators were, and remain, concerned about legal liability. Teachers also have a right to be concerned.
I agree with Bev: this sort of agreement has been too long in coming. Parents of diabetic children: I take my hat off to you. I cannot imagine the stress and strain involved in sending your child off to school each day, hoping that if they need special care that it will be available, pronto. But hat's off, also, to the CA school administrators who agreed to create the new policy. They accepted there is a problem and they are trying to fix it.

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