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Diabetes Not Expected to Affect Sotomayor’s Ability to Serve as a Justice

Posted May 28, 2009 6:57 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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If Judge Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed, she would be the first known member of the U.S. Supreme Court with Type 1 diabetes, but the disease isn’t expected to interfere with her ability to do the job.

Sotomayor was diagnosed at the age of 8 at a time when patients with the disease weren’t expected to live full lives, the Los Angeles Times reports. Indeed, Sotomayor abandoned her dream of following in the career footsteps of her fictional hero Nancy Drew because of advice that detective work would be too taxing for someone suffering from diabetes.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has said diabetes can decrease a person’s lifespan by seven to 10 years, but experts told the Los Angeles Times that the prediction doesn’t hold true for those who manage their disease well.

"There's absolutely no reason whatsoever that she should be less effective at all," Dr. Peter Butler, chief of endocrinology at UCLA Medical Center, told the newspaper. "I'm confident she'll see off most of the other members of the Supreme Court."

Those who don’t control their insulin levels well could develop heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage and blindness. Patients often can minimize complications through constant monitoring and insulin injections.

Dr. R. Paul Robertson, an endocrinologist at the University of Washington who is the president for medicine and science with the American Diabetes Association, agreed that Sotomayor should have no trouble doing her job, the New York Times reports.

Still, he said, the public should have a right to know how well Sotomayor was controlling her disease.

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