Thursday, May 28, 2009

Can you believe it? Sotomayor has Diabetes!

May 28, 2009

The standard confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee is a spectacle akin to the original Scopes trial. Countless political blowhards line up to testify, grandstand and pound their cymbals (and symbols) together like mechanical monkeys. They ask leading questions designed to force nominees to take nation polarizing stands on abortion, gun control, freedom of name it. Every topic is fair game for inquisition and speculation.

That brings me to Judge Sotomayor's diabetes. Much to my surprise, it isn't the standard political pundits or right wing opposition bringing up her type 1 diabetes. Nope, it's the media. Just Google "Sotomayor Diabetes" and you'll pull breathless reporting from media giants - Time: "Sotomayor Diabetes: Will it be a handicap?" , the Wall Street Journal: "Should Sotomayor’s Diabetes Be Considered In the Nomination Process?" and the Associated Press: "Sotomayor's diabetes helps shape views on discrimination". I could go on for 150 Google search page results. It's ridiculous, but it's also reality. Ignorance creates fear and even better headlines. The AP reports:

"Diabetes renders the 54-year-old Sotomayor more susceptible to heart disease, blindness, nerve damage and kidney damage. An estimated 23 million Americans — 8 percent of the population — have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association."

Gasp! How terrible. Can she really be considered for the Supreme Court? How could it be? Is the Obama administration insane? Ready to puke yet? I am.

The good news? Sotomayor and the Obama camp addressed the issue head on. They also went a step beyond and used the issue to help educate the public on basic diabetes information. That's amazing and thoughtful. The Huffington Post has the substance of her press release, "Sotomayor's Doctor Says her Diabetes is a Non-Issue." CNN's headline really cracked me up, "Sotomayor's Diabetes: She Overcomes it Every Day." Well, of course she does. It's a chronic illness, for hell's sake. The AP article is at least smart enough to point out:
"If the Senate confirms Sotomayor, she won't be the only Supreme Court justice to cope with a significant health condition. Chief Justice John G. Roberts has suffered seizures. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has survived bouts of colon and pancreatic cancer. Justice John Paul Stevens, who's 89, underwent radiation therapy for prostate cancer in 1992."
Again, welcome to life, the ultimate process of dying. So what's my angle on all this? I'm freaking delighted. No sarcasm intended. We need people in positions of power that represent more than fake political ideals. Sotomayor has a chronic illness that she's proactively managed with insulin injections and diet since she was eight years old. Hallelujah, a success story! I see the results of poorly managed diabetes in my dialysis clinic three times a week. I can tell you without reservation that Sotomayor is a real role model.

Will her experience with a chronic illness affect her judicial temperament and philosophy? I sure hope so. She's more likely to understand the issues, rights, and laws concerning health care. She's more likely to have a humane perspective. That's not guaranteed of course, but she'll at least have hard won experience. Health care, disability, discrimination, and privacy won't be esoteric legal exercises. Folks, if you haven't figured it out yet, health care is the number one issue of the twenty-first century.