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July 29, 2000

Other Social Issues

Question from :

I have type 1 diabetes and I am battling the Department of Motor Vehicles for my ambulance driver’s certificate. (The DMV has denied the certificate to me because I have diabetes, and I have been granted a hearing regarding this manner.) I have searched all over the web hoping to find an EMT or Paramedic in any state who has been granted an ambulance driver’s certificate despite having type 1 diabetes. Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful so far. I am hoping you may know of someone, or have some suggestions for me as to sites I may not have searched regarding this information.


From: DTeam Staff

Although I feel strongly people with type 1 diabetes should be allowed to drive if they take the proper precautions to avoid low blood sugars while driving, personally I don’t think it is realistic for a person with type 1 diabetes to assume the responsibility of driving an ambulance. If you are driving to a critically ill person, or carrying that person to a medical facility, it would not be safe if you had to pull over and est because you feelt low. If the person is bleeding or having a heart attack, a few extra minutes to get to the hospital can mean the difference between life and death. No matter how well controlled you are, low blood sugars can creep up unexpectedly. Driving at high speeds with a low blood sugar would endanger your passengers, yourself, and innocent bystanders.

If you enjoy driving for a living, I suggest you look into other professions where a few seconds of an untreated low blood sugar or stopping to treat a low would not be so dangerous. If you are interested in being an EMT, I see no reason why you can’t do so safely provided you control your diabetes. Even if you aren’t concerned about the risk to yourself, you do have to be concerned about the risk to your passengers and other drivers and pedestrians.

I think it can be very hard these days for people with type 1 diabetes to understand and accept that, despite the advances in treatment and the emphasis on leading a “normal life”, there are still activities that are dangerous to themselves and others. Perhaps the medical profession is partly to blame for not emphasizing this a little more. If the person with diabetes knowingly decides to take personal risks, that’s okay in my opinion. There are times, however, when the risk to others (even though fairly small) may not be acceptable “to society”.

Good luck, and I hope you are able to work something out. There are many ways to help others in need.

Additional comments from Dr. Larry Deeb:

I think the best place may be with the American Diabetes Association. I know they have done a lot with discrimination issues, witness our success as pediatricians in the KinderCare Case.

This will be a tough case as the states do have a responsibility to assure the public that ambulance drivers are safe.