Mr. Universe Assaulted by Police During Low Blood Sugar Episode

This article was originally published in Diabetes Health in April, 2007.

Doug Burns works out with his three kids.

| Dec 17, 2008

Diabetes Health magazine recently had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Burns for a lengthy feature.  He is a well-spoken and forthcoming man with a good sense of humor and an easy-going manner. Altogether, he comes across as a very nice person. On Sunday, however, Doug Burns was severely beaten by police during an episode of low blood sugar that occurred at a movie theater in Redwood City, California.

Doug states that he remembers seeing his friend in the theater and then feeling that he was getting low. He hurried to a snack counter to find food but apparently was intercepted by a security guard who thought he was intoxicated, even though he did not smell of liquor and was wearing a medic alert bracelet. The next thing he remembers is waking up while being given glucose by paramedics. He was surrounded by seven armed policemen who had severely clubbed him in the head and body, maced him, and handcuffed him, in spite of his medic alert cards and jewelry. The police had even brought in dogs.

Doug believes that had he been less well dressed or from a different ethnic background, the police might have shot and perhaps killed him. He comments that one of the worst things the police did was to call his young daughter and tell her what was happening to her father. The incident serves to underscore the need for better education of police officers and security personnel about how to distinguish hypoglycemia from intoxication.

See also:

Doug Burns interview on Diabetes Health TV

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Categories: Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Diabetes, Discrimination, Exercise, Food, Low Blood Sugar, Medical ID Jewelry, Personal Stories, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

The treatment Doug received here is horrible - I can't believe they didn't realise something was wrong. I understand it's hard to tell the difference between a hypo and a drunk, but shouldn't the police have been prepared to find out what was going on before reacting? This man just needed his food!

Posted by Got_Insulin on 5 April 2007

Doug Burns
What could you have done differently or would do differently to avoid a low so severe as to need complete assistance by others... although I have great compassion regarding what you went through... I have questions... what meds did you change?
how well informed were you about the possible negitative effects?
Do you carry supplies?
when did you test last?
did you have PLENTY of tabs with you?
Stop drop and test and treat is what I teach my children... Did you have a medical ID on... there was a quote that said you didn't remember if you were wearing it at the time? Will you wear it 24/7 now?... I hope you understand that this is just trying to bring this into some type of positive learning experience for all of the diabetes community and society as a whole... and I don't believe that charges would serve Justice, if we can't all learn something from your unfortunate incident than that would be criminal.
Thank You for all the advocating you do!

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

Horrible! This magnifies the need for police education on diabetes. To the user that suggested this was the diabetic's "fault"... shame on you! As prepared as we all are with diabetes the reality is it does sometimes require compassion and help from someone else. Especially when our blood sugar has suddenly dropped and we're not thinking clearly. I'm a diabetic that is in very good control, however, as I've gotten older my husband has been very good about reading the signs of low blood sugar before I can even feel them. Instead of feeling smug, Mr. "Got_Insulin", hope that this never happens to YOU.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

There is a comment regarding this incident that appears to place the blame on the victim. No one who has diabetes deserves to be beaten because they are having a low blood sugar. With the emphasis on tight control of blood sugar, the likihood of lows occuring is increased. Everyone who has diabetes and those who love them should be outraged at the treatment this man received. He was in trouble and needed help but instead received a beating. Unforgivable!

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

The lack of understanding of his condition could have led to his death. Questions that victimize him even more are inappropriate.

I have some questions for Got_Insulin. How often have you had tabs in your pocket, but went for the candy counter instead to treat your low? Do you test your blood sugar every time before you drive your car? Have you ever experienced a rapid drop in blood sugar where you were fine one minute and incoherent the next?

This case, unfortunately, is not the only time that a low has been mistaken for "bad" behavior. A friend of mine was experiencing a low when he was arrested for being drunk. Of course he was not drunk, but the officer ignored his plea to look at his medic alert. He sat in a cell for almost an hour before getting treatment.

The law enforcement community is not the only one at fault. Yes, they need to be better education, but diabetics need to take care of themselves and not rely on others to always be ready when an emergency strikes. We need to take responsibility for our condition and help protect others around us by testing before driving, for one example.

Posted by Bonnie on 5 April 2007

What happened to Doug is horrible and the police should be held accountable for their apparent ignorant behavior. However, I truely believe that the ultimate accountability rests on the person with diabetes. Why did Doug have to ambulate to a snack counter to intervene a low? I believe Doug should have had a roll of plastic glucose tabs or something similar with him or in his pocket. My teenage son has diabetes and he never leaves home without a roll of glucose tabs in his pocket or a gatorade in his Nike bag. No person with diabetes should rely on a walk to the snack counter or a vending machine etc to treat a low. Just like everything else a person is legally aloud to carry to manage diabetes, fast acting sugar supplies is one of them. The utlimate responsibility rests with Doug. No excuse for the horrific behavior of the police, but we need to place accountability on ourselves when it is doable.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

I believe that police officers are on the frontline of society and so should be trained to recognize and assess many situations. My husband is a diabetic and can drop low in a very quick time period. If he doesn't catch it in time, he loses his ability to understand what is happening. He knows somewhere in his mind that he has to eat, but cannot process in the information to take appropriate action. Is he responsible for himself, yes! However, isn't that what Mr. Universe was doing, trying to help himself out by getting sugar. I am sure once he reached that point he was beyond making polite requests for help. I have seen this in action and the person does look drunk and may sound silly, but their brain is shutting down and soon they will slip into a coma. Sadly, this man might have gotten the help he needed if he hadn't looked so intimidating. That is a poor sign of our society that we judge so completely the outside of a person and that we cannot look into what may be a reasonable cause of unusual behaviour.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

Sometimes life gets busy and we forget to bring everything. He had a bracelet on, what good does the bracelet do if most people are unaware that you may look drunk when you are in fact low.I can understand the security guard not knowing, but the police should have known better. I have friends who are cops and they would have known once they saw the bracelet. I think he was discriminated against because of his size and strength. They must have felt they needed to overpower him before it got out of hand because he would have wamped them. The cops I know, also love a good fight and the ability to injure when they can. It is unfair.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

Typical response. Blame the victim. Because Doug didn't do what your kids do then it was clearly his fault and he deserves the treatment he received. How depressing. I bet none of you have ever forgotten glucose tabs, meter, car keys, whatever. If it was you or your child who accidentally forgot something and then got beaten up, maced and arrested, I suspect you would have a lawyer there in a heartbeat. Cut the man some slack. Not everyone is a super-diabetic like your kids...

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

THats terrible,Im a diabetic myself and it is an awful feeling when your sugar goes low,you dont know whats happening,he didnt deserve that kind of treatment.Shame on those officeres!

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

The behavior of the police is terrible and they should be held accountable. A previous poster stated that they (or a family member) NEVER leave home w/out glucose tabs or some other fast acting "sugar". Well, I have been diabetic for over 20 years and normally carry similar stuff with me. But on occasion have rushed out of the house without it. In those cases, my wife usually has something in her person. A few times I have had to stop at 7-11, or the snack bar, etc. to get something for a low.

Maybe I have been lucky enough to not run into ignorant security guards or police. But it scares the c**p out of me to think that "trained" police officers would not think to check for a medical condition before resorting to physical violence on a "drunk".

While Doug may need to make sure he always carries something with him, the police also need better training and accountability for this incident. And they certainly owe Doug more than a simple "I'm sorry".

Posted by SugarNurse on 5 April 2007

We need to educate our police officers and the general public. I am a diabetes educator, and also the mother of a type 1 diabetic. Lows happen, and not everyone sees them coming, AND it doesn't mean that person has done something wrong! According to a large type 1 study, 40% of type 1 diabetics have experienced at least one severe low. The lower a person's average blood sugar, the higher the risk of hypoglycemia unawareness. Hypoglycemia unawareness was 3 times as likely to occur in the intensely controlled group as compared to the conventionally controlled group in the DCCT Trial. It also happens more often in atletes who participate in intense exercise. Severe lows can happen many hours after intense exercise, and it can come on fast. In ten years with type 1 diabetes, my son has had 2 lows. One resulted in seizure, the other happened at school, and thanks to a great school staff he was treated quickly with good results. We do regular diabetes education with school staff, and hope to start soon with our local police. Education is the key. I am sad for Doug Burns and his family.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

I'm sorry that happened to him, but why did he not have sugared candy (i.e. gum drops) on him so he didn't have to go elsewhere for the low remedy? We all have to be responsible and prepared for our lows.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

I agree that this was a tragic incident, but to print this as an assault without printing a response from the police is just a tragic. Could it have been a beating, pure and simple? Sure. Could it have been that the police were trying to control an obviously strong and perhaps difficult person? Of course. Over the years I have treated several unfortunate folks who were experiencing serious lows and most were easy enough to deal with; a few weren't and had to be restrained. I am not trying to guess here whether that was the case here or not, but fairness goes both ways. I agree that by and large the police need better training in this area, but lack of knowledge does not necessarily mean an intent to assault. Be fair in your reporting!

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

Shame on those of you who imply that Doug's low sugar and the subsequest events were, in any way, his fault! Have you ever heard of "hypoglycemia unawareness"? It can come on like you have hit a brick wall. So, even being prepared with sugar in your pocket does not always do the trick. I think that this man is probably one of the "experts" on diabetes, as he has taken care of himself for so long, and gotten to be Mr. universe with a lot of attention paid to his health.
People's bodies are different, and a severe reaction is no one's fault, so give him a break!
we need to educate the public about this very complex disease!

Posted by Anonymous on

As to those who say it's the diabetic's fault - it could be, but not necessarily. I've had times where I've been in public, and for some unknown reason (stress, delayed stomach emptying, or some other mysterious reason) gone low. I've then consumed all the glucose I had on my person and STILL bottomed out. Sometimes our bodies do strange things and it just happens. The police should have checked his jewelry and wallet for the ID he was carrying before beating him so brutally. It scares me to think that could happen to any of us!

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

It is not the diabetic's fault! There will come a time when even the most prepared diabetic forgets a snack or needs help. The fault lies with the police who did not bother to research the facts before they used their weapons. Weapons were not necessary in this case. And what if he was drunk? Should that give the police the right to club? The police involved should have their badges taken away!

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

You guys make me sick. Ever try to look for an ID bracelet when some muscled up guy is trying to beat your brains in? And the allegation that,had he been a different race or dressed differently, he might have been shot- who's stereotyping now? What a load!

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

I agree with the previous comment (except the "sick" :-)). Even health care professionals make mistakes attributing hypo symptoms to intoxication. We cannot expect law enforcement in a stress situations to apply medical knowledge, especially that diabetes is only one of many conditions that can cause such confusion. While expecting more knowledgeable policemen, we will be better protected if we take precution measures like IDs, bracelets and - first of all - have sugar pills with us. I am very sorry for Mr. Burns! But i am just trying to be more pragmatic then diabetes educators who believe EVERYBODY can be trained. We did not succeed with doctors and patients so far - what makes you think we should start with police?

Posted by Anonymous on 5 April 2007

How dare all of you, this man no matter what he forgot or didn't forget, the police have not one single right to beat him so badly that he needed medical attention, as a person who has low blood sugar drops, I have never left the house without my needed supplies, but, you know what when your sugar drops, it drops and no matter if you have your supplies or not you may not be in condition to get to them, As far as the police, I myself got stopped not to long ago while driving an SUV (family car) because they thought I looked like a drug dealer, at the time I was on my way to church. Of course i wear a braclet that says my condition, i carry a wallet card that also says my condition, I also carry needed insuln and needles, The police after looking at my ID and my braclet and also my wallet card giving my doctors name and phone number, did they bother to call the doctor or check anything no they arrested me for having drugs, and needles (insuln & syrines) Of course the charges were later droped however because the police are always in charge,I was handcuffed in front of my 4 children 3 of them who told the police that mommy had a diease that required medical attention, No i will not blame the man that was beaten up, I blame the police who are to quick to judge you as being a drug dealer or that you are a crimal, My children and I are still very tramatized by the ordeal and will always be a bit fearful of the police department My husband would like to file a lawsuit, i don't want to, my children are 2, 4, 6 and 10. Much to young to be fearful for the rest of their lives, So before you judge anything make sure that you know what you are talking about please

Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2007

Wow. I have had diabetes for over 30 years. With the improvements in care and increased public awareness, it amazes me the level of ignorance regarding diabetes- especially from people who are around it.

This could have been me. I take great care of myself: I see my endocrinologist every 4-6 weeks, my average A1c is 5.8-6.5, I wear my medical alert 24/7, carry juice and glucouse tabs every where I go, wear a pump, maintain a diet and exercise regiment for better control, and test 6-8 times a day. Sometimes, I forget something- I am only human. Hypoglycemia UNawareness happens. I get stressed out, excited, and etc in ways that effect my bloodsugars unpredictably.

I have bottomed out and needed help before. In 30 years it happens- I've woken up in the ER- once, fallen down stairs, passed out in the company of friends, and have heard a lot of stories of my being low and needing help. I am so glad my family is loving and supportive. I hope the people critical of Doug will be loving and supportive to their loved ones if they ever experience something like this.

The American Diabetes Association has worked hard for years to change how people respond to diabetes. It's working- it's easier for me to get on a plane post 9/11 than it was in 1978 or 1991. There is clearly more work to be done... after reading the article and responses, I hope everyone volunteers to help educate their local police and school staff.

Please, understand diabetes- completely, constructively support the people you love with diabetes, and help educate others about it. It's the best service you can do.

Thank you, Jessica

Posted by rick1 on 6 April 2007

Now that I read this article I will go out and get an ID bracelet.May Mr.Burns receive the justice he deserves, however he choose to proceed with it.The important thing is education and to get the message across, because each day we have to deal with our own forces, in order to live long and productive lives.God Bless, and keep up your health, we can do it.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2007

I'm more disgusted by the person calling herself a mother of a teenage diabetic son who something like that could "never happen to" all the while casting blame upon the victim. This man has had diabetes for years and may have hypo. unawareness. Also, he may have had fast acting sugar but dropped so low, he still wasn't up yet. He may have thought he was less "low" when he went to the snack bar than he actually got up and began walking. Perhaps that triggered it to really drop and make him incoherant. Bonnie, your superior and condescending attitude will NOT serve your son well if you are so naive to think it could never happen to him.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2007

According to the CNN article I read, Mr. Burns will be charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. I can understand police needing to use necessary force to subdue a combative person (NECESSARY force, not excessive force), but once they learned he was a diabetic experiencing a critical low, pressing charges is outrageous!

Posted by lreadrrncde on 6 April 2007

I'm wondering how many times an incident like this has to happen before finally, our protectors use their emotional intelligence to see that something may be causing questionable behavior besides alcohol or drugs. His friend, as well as his medic alerts were there to post a "clue" to his condition. I agree that medical education is essential for all police courses. We hate to read about this, but I'm also glad you wrote about it in your national publication to bring more awareness to this unfortunate incident. Blame? It's easy to blame Doug and call him irresponsible. But "forgetting" to carry glucose is certainly never a reason to get beaten. The focus, here, I think, is the irresponsibility of our police protectors to protect us all.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2007

My question is even if he were a drunk, why would they need to beat and mace and cuff him. That he was not drunk and simply having a low blood sugar makes it worse, but it seems to me that beating and hurting is not a good reponse in general and the choice of last resort. I also agree with Mr. Universe, if he had been a black man with pants hanging down would he be alive? Enough with violence being the answer. Period.

Posted by lakotakat on 6 April 2007

Forwarned is Forearmed!!

I, as well as other family members, carry brightly imprinted CARDS and wear necklaces and bracelets that read "WARNING - NOT INTOXICATED - SEVERE DIABETIC/LOW-SUGAR EPISODE - PLEASE CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!! Thank you!"

One family member has myenthenia gravis, which can cause the same type of episode, so hers is a little different!

We've known about very hasty, rude, rough and crude "Police" assumptions/actions for many years, since we are part Native American!

Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2007

I have seen episodes of the television program "Cops" where they have pulled over a diabetic who was experiencing a low and treated him like a criminal. I agree that education is a must for all public servants, police, firemen and women and Paramedics. Even those in emergency rooms need to be aware enough to check for medical ids. One thing I have found around my home town is that it is hard to find glucose tablets.

Perhaps Mr. Burns had some on him, but with his thinking being faulty while experiencing a low, forgot about them. Perhaps Mr. Burns thought something with sugar from the snack bar, followed by something with protein would stabilize him faster. We do not know. What I do know is that "rent-a-cop" from the movie theater needs to be educated, those police officers need to be educated, they also need to apologize to Mr. Burns and his family. The Judge assigned to the case also needs to be educated to the fact that while we are in a low we are not very coherent, nor can we always control our body.

Anyone who has experienced a low will try their best to avoid them, but they happen and out of nowhere at times. Public education, starting in our schools, and extending into training our police officers, firemen and women, emergency room doctors and nurses, and our paramedics.

If you are not diabetic, have never experienced a low, you will never understand what Mr. Burns was going through.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2007

As a DUI defense attorney and father of a young diabetic daughter, this issue is close to my heart and it is not the first time I've heard of an abuse like this by police officers ignorant of the debilitating effects of a low episode. My website,, contains a recounting of a similar incident in East Chicago from September 2006 when a diabetic man was killed by police overzealousness because they thought he was an uncooperative drunk. It is tragic to read about events such as these and heightens the awareness that education needs to replace presumption. Those interested can read the article on my site by scrolling to the bottom of the news section on the main page, and choosing October 2006 from the archived articles.

Posted by elvis on 6 April 2007

As I wrote on we have diabetes, the police are taught to profile people and to determine if someone is in need of help. In this case, to protect themselves, they claim he was fighting while witnesses say he was lying on the ground (from another article) convuling and got up. Of course I would be scared too but, he had glucose paste (one artcile said) on his face. Instead of asking if something was wrong they assumed he was on PCP, as Mr. Burns remembers hearing them say. He was unable to speak for himself. That should have been the number one clue to profiling him, let alone how well he was dressed, location (theater), etc. Although Mr. Burns should have had something with him to counter the low, the police are just as responsible for following training and profiling accurately.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2007

Reading through the comments, it is obvious that not only police officers and the general public need to be "diabetes enlightened." I can't believe the comments from some of those with diabetes and parents of those with diabetes! To blame a person with diabetes and excuse excessive police treatment is absurd! Have you not learned about hypoglycemic unawareness which is prevalent in long-term type 1 well-controlled diabetes patients? Have you been taught about gastroparesis? Any of the other causes of unpreventable lows? You should request additional classes from your CDE if you have not. After 35 years of diabetes, I never feel low until I am in the low 40's and that would be a high range of low for symptoms. I can be cooking dinner for my family and go to check my blood sugar before I eat and discover it is 27, with never a symptom. I have also been incoherent and helpless at 23. That's not much of a safe range to take care of it alone, or as you call it - responsibly. I wear an insulin pump. I check my blood sugar a minimum of 12 times and up to 20 times a day. I check at waking, before and 2 hrs after meals, each time I get in the car, before and after I exercise, when I feel low and at bedtime. I still have had lows that I needed assistance with. I carry glucose tabs - which take forever to eat, compared to drinking a pop or something. Lows still happen and they can happen quickly. I can check my BG when I get in the car and it's 110 and when I get to my destination 10 minutes later, I can be at 44.

Hopefully for your children's sake and yours, others will have more empathy and feel a responsibility to help when it happens to them or you, because it will happen to everyone taking insulin at some point in time. Even "perfect diabetics" don't have perfectly functioning bodies.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2007

I believe that law enforcement reactions many times are too swift and forceful in trying to subdue a person. Many of them are dead and many wounded from cases that too little was known about a particular situation.These cases have caused officers to over react as in the event at the theater. A structure and body that this man had most likely gave him phenominal strength and force was needed to subdue him and bring clearity to the situation.I agree that there needs to be more education. But the greatest medicine many times is preventive medicine.Know what can and might happen when you are diabetic. Prevent it. A sugar low does not happen so quickly that you can not react. Know the symptoms and react.The greatest care is that which you give yourself.

Posted by Anonymous on 7 April 2007

Thank you, SugarNurse, for pointing out the effects of intense exercise. Swimming, jogging, biking, lifting weights, jazzercize, calisthenics, just walking 2 or 3 miles every day, and even yoga (!), or doing more shopping than I expected can cause DELAYED low bgs when I least expected them: when I was asleep at 1 a m or 2 a m. It's happened to me! Should I give up the benefits of daily exercise to watch TV 4 or 5 hours? Gee, I might have fewer "episodes." But I'd have to take industrial doses of insulin, risk depression, risk earlier heart attack or stroke, increased other complications like blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage. Exercise, according to oncologists, also reduces cancer risk! FINDING A CURE, PERHAPS WITH STEM CELLS, OR FOLLOWING UP ON PREVIOUS PROMISING LEADS would enable us to get the maximum exercise benefits while minimizing the dangers of exercise such as unpredictable hypoglycemia and beatings by cops. I remember a COPS show when an epileptic was recovering from a seizure in a public place. He was ready to get on with his life, BUT THE POLICE INSISTED ON HANDCUFFING HIM AND TAKING HIM TO JAIL. "When they say they're OK, that they've recovered and try to leave, we have to use force to restrain them ," explained a cop. Did they take him to a medic? No, to jail. The fear and hatred of epilepsy or ANY unusual behavior seems to bring out the worst in intolerant bullies. Hopefully you'll be met with a younger, better educated, better trained, more idealistic cop, one who really does believe in "To Serve and To Protect".

Posted by Anonymous on 7 April 2007

Reading through the comments, it is obvious that not only police officers and the general public need to be "diabetes enlightened." I can't believe the comments from some of those with diabetes and parents of those with diabetes! To blame a person with diabetes and excuse excessive police treatment is absurd! Have you not learned about hypoglycemic unawareness which is prevalent in long-term type 1 well-controlled diabetes patients? Have you been taught about gastroparesis? Any of the other causes of unpreventable lows? You should request additional classes from your CDE if you have not. After 35 years of diabetes, I never feel low until I am in the low 40's and that would be a high range of low for symptoms. I can be cooking dinner for my family and go to check my blood sugar before I eat and discover it is 27, with never a symptom. I have also been incoherent and helpless at 23. That's not much of a safe range to take care of it alone, or as you call it - responsibly. I wear an insulin pump. I check my blood sugar a minimum of 12 times and up to 20 times a day. I check at waking, before and 2 hrs after meals, each time I get in the car, before and after I exercise, when I feel low and at bedtime. I still have had lows that I needed assistance with. I carry glucose tabs - which take forever to eat, compared to drinking a pop or something. Lows still happen and they can happen quickly. I can check my BG when I get in the car and it's 110 and when I get to my destination 10 minutes later, I can be at 44.

Hopefully for your children's sake and yours, others will have more empathy and feel a responsibility to help when it happens to them or you, because it will happen to everyone taking insulin at some point in time. Even "perfect diabetics" don't have perfectly functioning bodies.

Posted by Anonymous on 7 April 2007

OK, as the husband of a diabetic lets look at this in a different light. Mr. Burns was intercepted by a SECURITY officer at the theater. I don't know about California but the security in theaters where I live is less than impressive, usually some low grade flunkie wanna-be police officer. This guy more than likely found himself in a situation he wasn't prepared to handle so he called to police. Now let's talk about the police... Redwood City? Hmmm, 76,000 population? We aren't talking metropolis here. I would guess to say that their police are one step up from the security guard at the theater, which would explain why they felt the need to use batons and mace on a drunk person, because they're ignorant and need some schooling on proper restraint techniques. As for Mr. Burns... Yeah he made a mistake by not being fully prepared, but like an earlier comment said "How often have you had tabs in your pocket, but went for the candy counter instead to treat your low? Do you test your blood sugar every time before you drive your car? Have you ever experienced a rapid drop in blood sugar where you were fine one minute and incoherent the next?" I guess everyone who thinks Mr. Burns is at fault has never made a mistake. How does it feel to be infallible?

Posted by Type_1_pumper on 7 April 2007


Posted by Anonymous on 7 April 2007

My Type I husband had a very similar situation in 2004.

He had gone low very quickly while driving - this was no more than 15 minutes after checking his bg (which he ALWAYS does before driving). Fortunately, he just ran off the road into a ditch and did not hit anyone else. He had FIVE forms of medical ID on him as well as his insulin pump. The officer immediately decided that he was drunk because "he was muttering" - they arrested him, handcuffed, dragged and threw him into the back of the cruiser for at least 20 more minutes (all the while he was going lower). Our daughter providentially happened to be driving by and intervened. She had to strongly insist that they let her treat him. After a 911 call and treatment in the ER, we are grateful that he lived.

This is a man who takes nearly perfect care of himself - and I mean far beyond the basic don't leave home without food/supplies and tests 12-20 times a day even with his insulin pump. Yes - be prepared - as much as you can be - but realistically not all lows can be prevented.

I was furious with the police department who never even offered an apology - nor did they agree to alter officer training. We seriously considered a law suit but - this is a smaller NC town - and our other daughter worked in law enforcement in the neighboring county. In retrospect we both wish we had pursued it.

Posted by Anonymous on 8 April 2007

Got Insulin and Bonnie seem like two intelligent individuals who seem to have made some good points. Basically, at best, they seem to be saying the person with diabetes (not diabetic) needs to assume at least part of the responsibility. I don't see superior attitudes, I dont see either of them saying it would never happen to them or their child. I don't see them saying the police are without blame. Get a grip. Perhaps they don't blame others and prefer to take control. What if Doug had a low in the car and killed someone? Do you think perhaps "Got Insulin" and "Bonnie's" point of being as self sufficient and accountable woult hold more water? Please back off people who don't play the victim because of diabetes.

Posted by NonEntity on 9 April 2007

Your article, though interesting, is far from thorough. It omits both the police' side of the story and pertinent facts that other sources mention, such as Burns' having glucose paste. Accordingly, most of the comments here have been based on incomplete information.

Having researched this incident to the greatest extent possible via multiple Internet sources, I cannot determine with certainty just whose "fault," it was, as essential facts are in dispute or unavailable. This may be a case of shared responsibility.

Perhaps Burns did resist. Even if he did have glucose paste, maybe it had not had time to take effect or was an insufficent quantity. What did the friend do to assist, if anything?

I am speculating, but it appears that the police used excessive force, notwithstanding Burns' size and muscularity.

Unfortunately, this type of incident is not uncommon. Hypoglycemia can can come on very fast, and, especially in those who have been an insulin-dependent diabetic for a long time, without warning signs--hypoglycemia unawareness.

Burns was wearing his MedicAlert bracelet and carrying the accompanying ID card, but the officers apparently did not notice them, didn't know what they meant, or if they did, had no effect on their actions. I, too, have found that such diabetic identifiers carry little weight with police and security personnel.

Even when I have presented my MedicAlert dogtag and ID and ADA membership card, even physician letters on letterhead stationery, to "prove" why I have "devices readily weaponized" (pen needles and insulin) and "suspicious electronic devices" (blood glucose meter) in order to board airplanes or get into courts and sports arenas, I sometimes get the response, "So? Anybody can get those!"

The incident reinforces the need for diabetics to carry with them at all times their complete testing kit and not only fast-acting carbs like glucose tabs, paste, or juice, but also a "real food" snack like a peanut butter sandwich to maintain normal blood glucose. Always be INDEPENDENTLY prepared for emergencies. Never rely on anyone else to take care of your diabetes. Further, the incident points up the great need to better educate law enforcement, security personnel, and the general public about diabetes.

Posted by Anonymous on 9 April 2007

So it would have been OK to beat the man up had he merely been suffering from alcoholism, another serious and life-threatening illness? The police would have, according to most of your comments, been justified in doing so in such a case.

Posted by Anonymous on 9 April 2007

Please don't compare alcoholism to diabetes. Especially type one diabetes. Alcholism is a self inflicted illness. Not one person with diabetes made any decisions, choices or purchases that lead to their "illness". There were no initial choices with diabetes. There are initial choices with alcoholism. The end result is an illness but a way different springboard. Let's stay focused on the issue and article.

Posted by Anonymous on 9 April 2007

I can only guess as to why this incident happen.
I have been a paramedic for over 10 years. Many times I have dealt with violent patients due to their low blood sugar. Many times I have been punched at, kicked at, bitten, and even attacked with a golf club. More often than not, we have had to use police, fire fighters and family members to control the patient, for treatment. I remember one paitent that took 9 firefighters to hold him down while I checked his BS and gave him the dextrose.
Now, most police I know, do know the differences between low BS and alcohol intox. However when a person is violent, the police have to contain the person from hurting himself or others. Doug, being a Mr. Universe is probably a very large and strong individual. It may have taken a lot to stop him. Also if he was violent in any way, they may not have had the time to evaluate him to check for low BS.
I was not on that seen so I have no clue what went through the cops minds, but before you go waving fingers at the police, try to live in their shoes for a day.
A person can be the nicest person in the world. But with low BS, they can turn into the meanest toughest person you ever met.
In a split second decision, will you be able to tell the difference between a hypoglycemic person, or a drunk. Especially one that is very big and muscular.
By the way, I am also a diabetic

Posted by Anonymous on 10 April 2007

I feel for Doug, but most of all I feel for the "so called great police officers". I have a 8 year old son that has been a diabetic for 3 years now. I worry over stupid stuff just like this. People don't know how a diabetic feels and what they go through when experiencing a low. My son has experience several lows. He is on an insulin pump and sees his doctor every 3 months and follows up closely with numbers called in for changes. I know Doug knew he was getting low, but when he made the attempt to walk to the snack bar his levels dropped faster and he probably lost his thoughts. It happens to DIABETICS!!!! Diabetics (type 1) didn't choose to live with the disease. So if you know nothing about handling a diabetic going low then you probably wouldn't understand, the anger from this accident. The police officer owe Doug and his family apology. The officers should be taught to check for medical identication jewelry and cards, which Doug had on. They shouldn't just assume that someone is drunk, low blood sugar can lead to death. The deal with Doug should have had sugar on him, well he could have already taken all he had, or that he had some and didn't.

Posted by Got_Insulin on 10 April 2007

I am glad that there is a lot of discussion about this incident and having a lot of different views brings much to the table and opens the doors to learn.

One thing that is important to recognize is that a person impaired, which I think all would agree hypoglycemia can cause severe impairment and once a person is in that state they may become belligerent, aggressive, combative, down right dangerous to themselves and or others...

this is a physiological response: the old flight or fight response and lots of adreniline comes into play...

I have seen little old ladies become herculian in this state...
just stop for a moment and think about someone in Doug's excellant physic and condition...

so for people to assume the Police would be solely responsible for the injuries he sustained... you try talking to or restraining someone wildly out of control...

So the physical contact regardless of the impairment is all unjustified, they are reacting to what they are presented with...

that said once known there the outcome of charges and suing in either direction by either party should be mediated...

For the record testing 6 to 8 times a day may not be enough...
you can test more
10 to 15 times a day ... routinely is not unheard of...

that's why CGMS have been developed and will give even more precision to diabetes management for those that want to control their diabetes will all that's humanely possible...

Thanks for recognizing choosing not to be a victim is an option... not foolproof, yet
decreases the odds greatly... by being proactive and not just reactive...

Be well, reach for the stars!

Posted by Anonymous on 10 April 2007

It's hard to look for medical alert tags when someone is swinging at you.

Posted by Anonymous on 13 April 2007

Absolutely hard to look for a medical alert tag when someone is swinging at you. Also, I doubt a police officer would club or retaliate against an 8 year old child unless that child pulled out a weapon. If Doug had something on him and then ate it and then had none as a result - go get more before you go low again. Off the subject: Are those muscles of Doug;s natural or has there been articial help such as steriods? I ask because alcohol does interfere with blood sugars if used in excess - I wonder if there is more to the story than just a traditional diabetes low. Also, has Doug confirmed he has hypoglycemic unawareness? If not, we are back to placing ultimate responsibility on Doug. Carry what you need. Put identification in multiple places. Be glad Doug may have been swinging at cops and not you or your child. I am not advocating for cops but sheesh, they do have a hard job and they were trying to keep the community at large safe from a very large man. If Doug was swinging (was he?), then the cops would be negligent not to take assertive action. Diabetes is a manageable challenge. It is not just a disease or illness that is reason to push accountability elsewhere. I have a young adult child with diabetes. We stay positive, despite the fact "Diabetes Sucks". It is what it is. We have to educate all to it. Cops should be educated but so should the general public, schools and even medical personnel. Seems like Doug hopefully learned something as well.

Posted by Anonymous on 18 April 2008

Posted by Michael (who has type 1 diabetes)

It's interesting that most of the 'blame the person with diabetes' posts come from people who don't have type 1 diabetes themselves.

Not all hypos are easily detected. Sometimes a person does not detect them until they have lost the ability to treat them. Sometimes you forget the bag of lollies in your bag because a hypo impacts your ability to think and reason.

I use a CGMS and can tell you they do not detect all hypos because their readings run 10-15 minutes behind the actual blood sugar levels (they measure glucose in interstitial fluid) and can miss a fast fall in levels.

As a parent it must be comforting to imagine that this can't happen to your children if they do what you tell them so I understand wanting to believe this is somehow Doug's fault.

Doug is a smart and successful athlete who manages his life with discipline and precision. If a sudden debilitating hypo can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.

Posted by Anonymous on 30 April 2008

It is not the diabetic's fault! There will come a time when even the most prepared diabetic forgets a snack or needs help. The fault lies with the police who did not bother to research the facts before they used their weapons. Weapons were not necessary in this case. And what if he was drunk? Should that give the police the right to club? The police involved should have their badges taken away!

Posted by Anonymous on 9 July 2008

This article omits that Mr. Burns took what was described by witnesses as "a fighting stance" with the police, and that Mr. Burns caused serious injury to one of the officers.

Although it is excusable for a diabetic to sometimes allow blood sugar fall, this failure by Mr. Burns is less so, having been handling his condition for 35 years, and proclaiming himself "an expert" on the talk circuit.

Mr. Burns might not have deserved the beating he received by the police, but this was certainly was no Rodney King situation. The situation, based on Mr. Burns's own statements and those of the police, appears muddy at best.

Mr Burns does not bear 100 percent of the blame for this incident, but he was not 100 percent free of causing it either.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 August 2008

Most cops are individuals trying to prove something due to LOW self-esteem. This in turn, causes them to use force whenever the opportunity arises. Given the circumstances, Mr. Burns should not have been harmed and those fools should have been sued!

Posted by Anonymous on 23 August 2008

it makes me sick i have diabeties and a similar thing happend to me but itdifferent cus im from england and poliece dnt use that much force but i was out one time with my friends and needed help as my insulin pump moufunctiond and gave me an overose i soon became low and was walking round the street looking intoxicater i tried to get in a fast food resterant and they didnt let me in i showed them my probm and they ignoord me and told me to soba up i shouted angrely at the staff as the feeling of having a hypo is extreemly daunting and scary as many of you well no the poliece came and arested me i later fell in to a coma in the polce van and later woke up in hostital. its hard when people say do this do that and it wont happen its just something you cand avoid and even wors when said from people who dont have diabeeties i usualy tell them where to go

Posted by Anonymous on 7 October 2008

I have type 1 and have had spells like that. As for the cops and the causing "serious injury" to a cop, I know when it has happened to me in the past, you panic as it rapidly falls. I don't care who it was trying to stop me I would do what ever I had to do to get to sugar. It's easy to say that someone handling this situation for 35 years should be able to handle themselves but every person who has type 1 will have this happen to them occasionally, albeit very rarely but it will happen.

Posted by mikepots on 18 November 2008

Did the police apologize and admit they were wrong? Did Mr. Burns get charged for anything?
I have been fortunate to be around people who know of my type 1 situation when my glucose was in the 30's...I worry about the possibility of the above happening to me.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 December 2008

I have been insulin dependent for over 40 years. What happened to Doug is not excusable at all by the Police. Acting Drunk? Perhaps Doug was but the actions taken by Security may have been the bad part as often a simple question will give a realistic answer that can easily be understood. By the time that the Officers arrived Doug had received nothing to help his condition and with the brain being almost shut down, Doug could have acted in a way that required the Officers to believe they had entered a very dangerous situation that required the results of the Officers basic training. What happened to Doug has happened to me before and after CGMS became my 24/7 assistant. Twice in the last 24 months I have needed EMT assistance. No I am not proud of that fact and I try daily to assure that it does NOT HAPPEN again.

Posted by Anonymous on 18 December 2008

On speaking to two different childcare professionals recently, I was astonished that they still think here in Ireland, that Diabetes is not serious and is totally sorted when an insulin shot is given. When I, as the Mum of a diabetic, described a bad hypo,to both of them, they just looked disbelieving. I think that there needs to be information out there in training programmes for the police, first aiders, teachers and preschool assistants. They need to know what a bad hypo involves so that if it happens, the poor diabetic whose body is in crisis, is not subjected to such additional attacks as poor Mr Burns. And it is not the first such incident that I have heard of... Let us hope that the publicity might lead to it being the last....

Posted by Anonymous on 18 December 2008

I was also a bit disturbed while reading this article. My son has type 1 Diabetes and I can recall many incidents where he was involved in an activity and the "low" snuck up on him. He also wears the continuous glucose monitor from Medtronic, but not continuously. When he does have it on, we have never seen a low episode where he couldn't intervene. The values from his sensor are much more VALID than his fingerstick because it is registering the glucose level his brain and cells are reacting to. I know longer feel that the fingerstick BG is an accurate reading when we are dealing with how his body physically reacts to his BG levels. It has been a life changing device for us and his BG average is 140mg/dl. For a 15 yr old athletic boy, I am very proud of this technology!! And can only hope that through improved education to professionals, they can prevent this situation from occurring in the future.

Posted by Anonymous on 2 January 2009

I work in law enforcement and have a husband that is type 1 brittle diabetic. His lows hit fast and sometimes I even have problems seeing it coming.
I have seen officers pull people from cars by their hair, mace them, hit them, arrest them, and never question why they did not smell any liquor on them.
I am always afraid that this may happen to my husband.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 April 2009

I too wish there was more education about type 1 diabetes. Our sixteen year old daughter has type 1 and drops low frequently even though we have switched endocrinologists, now have the CGMS, and she works very hard not to drop. She tries to carry emergency "food" at all times, except this time... One of our rudest experiences was while visiting London, During a sudden low BS -- 32 - we walked into a resturant, i explained to the server that we needed a soda (or anything) quickly for our diabetic daughter, I WAS IGNORED. We left and found another restarant next door who quickly came to help us.

Posted by Anonymous on 10 August 2009

To Anonymous who posted on 08 July: You obviously don't know much about hypoglycemic states. If you did you would realise that the confusion experienced from low sugars triggers a kind of defensive aggressive behavior.

The police officers promise to serve and protect; they obviously cannot do that if make assumptions about people being drunk. They need retraining about medical situations that can triggers abnormal behaviors.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 November 2009

I had a problem with the highway patrol in rural Oklahoma. I, being from Oklahoma City, was used to being 5 minutes from the nearest exit to get off and eat something. In rural Oklahoma there can be miles between exits and those exits may not even have a place near the highway to stop. I was in my freshman year at college in rural, OK and had to go to the nearest city which was about 2 hours away and I had not driven to before. I made a wrong turn causing a 2 hour trip to turn into a 3-4 hour trip and leading to a very scary situation. I had eaten previously, planned on eating again when in town, and had a box of snacks in the car, which turned out to be empty. I was in a place I was not familiar with and feeling my sugar getting low. I knew I had to get into town before I passed out somewhere. There were several stretches with no cell phone reception. I was pulled over for speeding and by the time that happened was confused, agitated, and felt as if I would fall asleep any second. When I told the officer I was having low blood sugar and had medicalert, I was blatantly called a liar and given a ticket. The officer said he had delt with diabetics before and went on to threaten me with fraud for claiming low blood sugar to get out of a ticket. He gave me a little piece of gum and said if I actually was having problems that that might help. I was left still confused, very agitated, and now with a ticket on the side of the highway. I got back on the road and by some miracle made it into town balling my eyes out and shaking uncontrolably. I did get something to eat and after a while got my sugar up. It was one of the scariest times in my life because I didn't know where I was, and I could feel myself drifting out of consciousness. I felt I had no choice but to keep driving and pray the whole way. When I told my family what had happened, the patrol office was called. We were told they are trained to deal with these situations and it would be "looked into". Nothing happened except my paying the large fine and being threatened. I do now check my sugar and for snacks before driving anywhere.

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