Hypos and TV shows

TV fans have been in touch with Diabetes UK recently, asking why dramas rarely portray well what it’s like to live with diabetes.

Our mailbag is full of comments about a wide range of dramas that have been on air recently that have mentioned diabetes, either as part of a long-running storyline or in one-off comments.

While it’s encouraging diabetes is being written into dramas as it helps to raise the profile of the condition, we agree it’s vital that dramas get the facts right. Not least so people who don’t have diabetes don’t make mistakes about how to help those of us who do.

We have a guide for scriptwriters on our website, and continue to advise script writers to help them get it right.

Most recently, we reviewed the scripts for the BBC’s Silent Witness two-parter “Awakening” (series 20, episodes 5 & 6) . The script writers did make changes as they wanted the action to be medically accurate, however, Diabetes UK doesn’t get final say on scripts and only advises scriptwriters and producers. Detective drama, Endeavour (series 4, episode 3) also had a diabetes related storyline. Both storylines are disturbing as a qualified medic deliberately induces hypoglycaemia in someone using insulin injections.

Soap operas have also been running diabetes storylines recently. A character in ITV’s Emmerdale has Type 1 isn’t managing her condition well and went into a hypo. Some fans have written in to say how worried you are about the character, and others say you think the action is unrealistic. And a passing comment in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks incorrectly suggested a cake would give a character diabetes, which rankled us. We didn’t know about this one, but would have advised the writers to take that out.

If we are consulted about a drama storyline we can and will give script writers and producers clear, constructive advice. However, we’re never there on set directing the action or advising in the editing suite where it’s cut into what we see on screen.

If you are unhappy about how diabetes is being shown on screen, do let the programme know. But let’s not forget,  films and TV shows will often use dramatic licence which suits their stories, but doesn’t necessarily reflect everyday life. They are creating entertainment rather than screening realistic situations – but when we are involved –  we try to steer them towards the most realistic portrayal possible.

You might also like