TV Report Gets Blood Sugar Management Completely Wrong

The errors occur in a report on doctors who make mistakes.



When you’re writing about the need for medical fact-checking, it’s best to get your own facts right.

A Western Washington TV news report has gotten blood sugar management completely wrong. Irene Cruz filed a written story to accompany a video report discussing the impact of medical errors that was shown by news shows King-5 in Western Washington and ABC-10 in Sacremento, California. The written story closely follows the video report in the first few paragraphs – both document the case of a woman who was separated from her baby daughter because a doctor had incorrectly diagnosed the reason behind the baby’s broken arm. However, the written report then discusses errors in blood sugar management at the UC Davis Medical Center, a noted diabetes research hospital.

Read “The Type 1 Diabetes News Consumer’s Handbook.”

This is where the report runs into factual trouble. The reporter quotes and paraphrases Dr. Nam Tran of the UC Davis Medical Center on how medical staff can minimize glucose management errors. There is a paragraph in the report that reads:

Glucose meters, which distribute insulin to diabetic patients, were once all thought to be the same in all medical facilities. Dr. Nam Tran, director of the clinical chemistry lab at UC Davis Medical Center, said if you give a person not enough insulin that they need, their glucose drops down to a low level that can potentially kill them.

This paragraph about glucose control contains two critical errors – that meters distribute insulin and that not enough insulin in the body can cause glucose levels to drop. Insulin pumps distribute insulin, and a lack of insulin can cause high glucose levels.

Read “Newscast Punches Up Drama of Insulin Pump Theft.”

Insulin Nation contacted Irene Cruz through her email at ABC-10, and she said she will work to correct the errors. She provided this recorded quote from Dr. Tram in his interview: “If you give a person too much insulin they need, their glucose drops down to a low level that can kill them.” This seems to indicate that the problem with the article was a reporting error.

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Craig Idlebrook is managing editor for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation. He's written about health policy, environmental health, community health, and maternal health for over 25 publications. You can reach him at cidlebrook@epscomm.com.