Late in July the London tabloid the Daily Mirror published a story about a man who had suffered a hypoglycemic episode and collapsed at home. Under a headline which said he was “accused of being unfit parent by paramedic,” the article described how a 27-year old dad, March Le Fey, came to after being administered emergency treatment, only to be upbraided by a paramedic who later reported him to the child protection authorities.
According to the Mirror, social services decided to take no action, but only after a lengthy interval. Le Fey, who was looking after his five-year-old and three-year-old sons on a regular weekend schedule, suffered a low at home. The older son, according to an interview the father had given, had been taught how to respond to a diabetic emergency. The father had been diagnosed at age nine and by all appearances had been taking proper care of himself, and was equipped, and had equipped his loved ones, with knowledge sufficient to help him recover from his low and to prevent risk of harm to his children.
“I have a known complication of diabetes and if the paramedics had bothered to give me a chance I would have told them,” Le Fey says in the article. “We all have a right to live. There are plenty of people with diabetes and other medical conditions who look after their kids perfectly safely.”
A pertinent question is whether someone with diabetes could have their children taken away in the United States. Certainly, a chronic health condition, if it’s debilitative or life-threatening, or pattern of behavior evidencing a reckless approach to anything in life that would put a child at risk, are factors an official may consider when making an order affecting parental rights. But none of the judges I’ve known in my legal career would even think of denying or restricting custody merely on the basis of a parent’s diabetic condition. And a lawyer stupid enough to be making an issue or a negotiating point out of it would be hauled into chambers for a good woodshed talking-to.
However, that isn’t to say such a case as this might not happen here. It’s important to note that all that happened in this case was an accusation by a health official and a nerve-wracking investigation. Sadly, as anyone who has gone through a nasty custody dispute could attest, baseless accusations against fit parents happen all the time. While these cases are hopefully closed before they get to court, or shut down once there, they can be a needless drain on parents and the system.
While it may be impossible to prevent one misinformed first responder from initiating such an investigation, the best methods to prevent such an outcome are to continue to train health officials about hypoglycemia, to keep your family in the loop about your diabetes self-care (as Le Fey has done), and to keep good documentation of your diabetes therapy. Parents who are responsible in their diabetes care shouldn’t have to go through this, but it’s best to be prepared, just in case.
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