As you may have seen in the news, a California couple — Gregory Lee and Yvonne Dee Latham — were just convicted of second-degree murder in the death of their 17-year-old daughter Nanette, a Type 1 diabetic who died from out-of-control blood sugars that her parents did nothing to treat. According to the Associated Press,
The girl went into cardiac arrest en route to the hospital where doctors found her blood glucose level to be 1295, more than twice the level at which someone could go into a diabetic coma.
Prosecutor Burke Strunsky told jurors during the trial that Nanette spent the last four days of her life starving and in a mental fog, wearing a wet diaper, because her parents didn’t call paramedics. They finally called 911 after she stopped breathing.
A blood glucose level of 1295?! For any non-diabetics in the audience, a normal person’s range is from about 80-110. When I was diagnosed — at which point I was throwing up and dizzy — I was around 440. 1295 is nearly inconceivably high.
When I first read about the case, I thought there must have been some misunderstanding. Maybe her parents didn’t know that she had Type 1 diabetes — which doesn’t excuse them for not seeking medical help until their daughter stopped breathing, but might at least explain their claim that they thought she had the flu. Maybe they recognized she was dying but were extremely religious, and were trying to heal her through prayer — again, unacceptable, but it’s happened before.
But no. They knew she had Type 1 diabetes. The articles make no reference to God. And according to the prosecutor, quoted in mydesert.com, “barely five years earlier, Nanette had suffered a similar episode and was rushed to a Moreno Valley hospital, where she spent several days recuperating.”
The defense stated that Gregory Latham — himself a Type 2 diabetic — wasn’t able to absorb the information in pamphlets and audio cassettes given to him to educate him about his daughter’s diabetes because of his “limited intellectual ability.” I’m sorry, but if your seventeen-year-old diabetic daughter is lying unresponsive on the floor in a urine-soaked diaper, you would have to be in a coma yourself not to realize something was really wrong. And if for some reason you didn’t, perhaps you could have listened to the two neighbors who said she needed medical attention and taken up one of their offers to drive her to the hospital. You know, before she stopped breathing.
I know that there is much lacking in Americans’ access to quality diabetes education, but in this particular case, I really see no excuse for what happened. Your daughter passes out on the floor, you call the paramedics. It’s that simple. There is no reason that Nanette Latham should have died.
For more about the case, here’s an article from the Press-Enterprise.
As a side note, it’s easy — and important — to forget about how deadly this disease can be when we’re living with it every day. But cases like Nanette’s remind me of how serious Type 1 diabetes is — and how lucky I am to live in a time when insulin is available, and a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes does not need to be a death sentence.