People With Diabetes Mistreated, Philadelphia Police Withhold Medicine and Food

On June 27, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) joined as plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit charging the City of Philadelphia with denying people with diabetes proper medical treatment while in police custody.

The case, Rosen et al. v. City of Philadelphia, Civil Action No. 2000-CV-764, is currently pending in federal district court. The ADA is seeking changes in the police department’s policies and procedures to ensure that police provide people with diabetes access to the medication and food needed to control their blood glucose levels. In addition, they want to ensure that people with diabetes who become ill while in police custody receive proper medical care.

According to the ADA clinical practice recommendations, people with diabetes in correctional facilities should be provided care equivalent to all patients with diabetes. In this particular lawsuit, seven people with diabetes who were recently in police custody have come forward with similar experiences of being denied insulin, food, blood glucose testing supplies and/or medical treatment after identifying themselves as having diabetes. These individuals became seriously ill as a result of the police department’s failure to respond to their clear requests for basic medical care.

“The Association does not enter into this litigation lightly,” said Michael Greene, chair of the ADA’s Legal Advocacy Subcommittee. “However, when people with diabetes do not receive the medical attention or treatments they need to manage this serious disease, they are at risk for dangerous health consequences, including hospitalization, coma and possibly death.”

Greene adds that being in police custody does not give the authorities a license for abuse.

“When individuals with diabetes are mistreated by the government it affects everyone with diabetes,” he says. “People with diabetes should be allowed the proper care needed to stay in good control of their blood sugar levels whether in police custody or not. When they are refused needed care, their civil rights are violated and the Association must take action to protect their rights.”

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