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April 29, 2003

Other Social Issues

Question from Mount Airy, Maryland, USA:

My wife and I live about a two-hour non-stop flight apart, and we are presently involved in a custody dispute involving our three children, the oldest of whom (age ten) has type 1 diabetes. The judge is ordering her to facilitate an upcoming visit, but my wife says she does not want him to fly without her or myself. I've contacted the airlines, and they are fine with my children flying. I offered to pay for her to fly with them, but she declined. I asked her if she would drive them half way, and again she declined. Personally, I am comfortable with them flying and feel that my wife is acting as an obstructionist, a feeling the judge also expressed. I am presently trying to get input from my son's endocrinologist which unfortunately is usually difficult due to her busy schedule. Removing all the politics of divorce from this situation, am I reasonable in my assessment that it is okay for my 10 year old son to take a two hour, non-stop flight with just his two younger sisters under the supervision of airline personnel?


This is a very difficult situation, and there is no easy answer. You don’t mention whether your son is independent in blood glucose monitoring, insulin taking and independent decision making regarding highs and lows. The two siblings are younger so they most likely would not be of help in assisting with his diabetes care.

You cannot expect the airline personnel to know what to do about your son’s diabetes in an emergency. You also don’t mention whether your son is prone to lows, and whether there have been any emergencies recently that required assistance from others. I think your son’s endocrinologist needs to decide whether this is a safe plan based on your son’s treatment regime and history.

Additional comments from Lois Schmidt Finney, diabetes dietitian:

I see there are many problems here, in addition to the issue of flying. I hope there is some counseling and mediating going on, for all of the children and of course for the child with diabetes. I think contacting the airlines about being sure that an attendant will be able to watch the child and assist, if needed, should be acceptable to your ex-wife, but I think it sounds like she is a difficult person. If you could get something from the airline in writing, that might be best.