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by Abigail Van Buren

Don't Blame Diabetes for Irrational Behavior

DEAR ABBY: "Wants a Life in Virginia" implied that her husband's diabetes had led to irresponsible, irrational, and even violent behavior. While I sympathize with the wife and her family's problems with him, blaming diabetes for his behavior is both a mistake and medically inaccurate. It only adds to the discrimination and stigmatization faced by people with diabetes, as well as those at risk for it.

Unfortunately, it is still a common misconception that diabetes can bring about irrational and reckless behavior. I am president-elect of the Diabetes Association, and we hope you will let your readers know that people with diabetes should not be considered any more likely to be irresponsible, hostile or violent because of their disease. Perpetuating this myth does a great disservice to the entire diabetes community and the millions affected by this disease.

Today, diabetes affects at least 17 million Americans -- almost one out of every 10 adults. It is the nation's fifth-deadliest disease, killing more than 210,000 individuals each year. The majority of people with diabetes work hard to manage their disease and lead active, healthy and productive lives. Every day they balance their food intake with activity and the treatments recommended by their health-care providers. Until a cure is found, they must shoulder the constant obligation of managing their disease. It is one that requires diligence, patience and remarkable will. -- EUGENE J. BARRETT, M.D., PhD.

DEAR DR. BARRETT: Thank you for setting the record straight. Today you have not only educated my millions of readers, you have also taught me an important lesson. Although I did not say that the man's behavior was related to his illness, I'm sorry I didn't challenge the writer's incorrect assumption.