Created By: bulmabriefs144 on November 16, 2012 Last Edited By: bulmabriefs144 on November 17, 2012
Nuked

Diabetics Always Have Comas

Diabetic comas in fiction

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The Other Wiki estimates anywhere between 2-15% of diabetics actually fall into comatose state, usually from either extremely high or low blood sugar, or possibly because the body has converted its fats into sugar. And yet somehow, Diabetics Always Have Comas.

First, because Viewers Are Morons. It is presumably far easier to show the audience this, than have syringes being shot or blood being tested, or even excessive water getting drunk. And second, it's more dramatic. It's also a quick way of adding Character Development, or shoehorning in a Very Special Episode.

In Real Life though, it's not that simple.

First off, that coma? It doesn't get easily treated offscreen, there are three different causes, remember? The doctor has to correctly figure out which it is, and how to treat it.

Next there's the fact that usually one slice of cake is eaten, and the other people in the room shift their attention for a second, and the diabetic collapses on the floor. In actual fact, despite food having more of an effect on their blood sugar, the calories and nutritional amount of food is fixed (that is, a tiny slice of cake won't do you in, a 1/4 of the cake might).

Then, of course there's the fallacy that sugar is the only cause of diabetes. Listed causes have included pancreatic cancer, a virus, high amounts of fructose in the system, and even trans fats. But of course, sugar is the culprit, because sugar is bad.

Finally, doctors in films or live action television like to tell patients they'll have to live with this "the rest of their lives", especially because of their genes (never mind that the problem developed in adulthood, and their family has no history of it). There's increasing evidence that a healthy diet can actually reverse the disorder.

But of course, the writers didn't care, because knowing all these facts drains all the tension from the room (especially that last one). Any good drama, must have random people suddenly develop diabetes, when they appeared extremely fit and healthy three episodes before. Even if it makes no sense.


Examples:

  • In Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Hoopz falls into a diabetic coma after Jordan stabs him with a needle filled with Type II Diabetes. The only possible excuse this could have is the fact that he is in shock from the surprise injection. He eventually is cured by Wilford Brimley's super power: Absorbing the diabetes into himself.
  • In Body of Proof the protagonist's daughter suddenly collapses after eating a (rather small) slice of cake. After the episode, we find out she is diabetic in real life, though it's doubtful she found out as dramatically as this.
  • Subverted in Doc Martin as the soon to be patient actually is shown to have the lead-in symptoms (excessive thirst, easy drunkeness). She too gets a coma as a clear symptom of what's wrong, though.

Community Feedback Replies: 8
  • November 16, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    This sounds pretty negative. It might need to be rewritten to be less Complaining About Shows You Dont Like. Also, that Hitler Ate Sugar trope isn't actually about eating sugar.

    I just searched the wiki for diabetes and actually Tastes Like Diabetes was the only thing that came up, along with some references to fan fictions, so there's totally room for more tropes ABOUT diabetes. That said, the title of this trope is "Diabetics ALWAYS Have Comas" and you only list one example, so that seems like the very idea is incorrect. Once is not always. Maybe something broader about the symptoms of diabetes? You're obviously both passionate and knowledgeable about the topic.

    The only fictional example I Can think of is Turk on Scrubs, but his unhealthy eating habits were lampshaded before he developed diabetes (without being the sole cause), and though the diagnoses causes him some angst he does learn to live with his condition pretty much normally.
  • November 16, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    • In Barkley Shut Up And Jam Gaiden, Hoopz falls into a diabetic coma after Jordan stabs him with a needle filled with Type II Diabetes. The only possible excuse this could have is the fact that he is in shock from the surprise injection. He eventually is cured by Wilford Brimley's super power: Absorbing the diabetes into himself.
  • November 16, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    What I was getting at (with the ranting monologue) is that there's a gross oversimplification, starting with the cause. Hitler Ate Sugar is a joke, the idea that something is bad because someone bad used it. i.e. "Diabetics have an aversion to sugar, therefore nobody should have sugar because they might develop it" might lead you instead to super-low blood sugar.

    I've seen others, it's just the only recent one that comes to mind.

    Subverted in Doc Martin as the soon to be patient actually is shown to have the lead-in symptoms (excessive thirst, easy drunkeness). She too gets a coma as a clear symptom of what's wrong, though.

    Three samples makes the basics of a trope, though it could use a better name. And a condensed description that covers the bit about it being oversimplified and curable, in about three less paragraphs.
  • November 17, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^ How exactly do you fill a needle with Type II Diabetes? :)
  • November 17, 2012
    SharleeD
    This trope might work better as a broad Hollywood Diabetes trope than one specifically about diabetic comas.

    The biggest problem with the "eat cake = instant collapse" scenario, of course, is that it takes time for the carbohydrates in food to be dissolved, digested, and absorbed into the bloodstream. Even eating the entire cake at one sitting shouldn't have such an effect until later in the day.

    Failure to distinguish Type 1 diabetes (the insulin-dependent sort) from Type 2 (dietary and potentially reversible) is a common result of Did Not Do The Research. Likewise, failure to call the condition diabetes mellitus, which distinguishes it from diabetes insipidus (a rare disorder unrelated to blood sugar).

    As for the Viewers Are Morons justification, it's worth a mention that the symptom diabetes mellitus was named for is also not something easily featured, because Nobody Poops -- or rather, pees -- in fiction. Constant trips to the restroom tend to evoke comedy, not dramatic tension, which also makes it awkward to depict if you're aiming for drama.

  • November 17, 2012
    Bisected8
    • In a Jonathan Creek episode, after a woman tries to murder a diabetic relative (who's worked out how she killed the Victim Of The Week), Creek mentions her plan was to let the relative slip into a diabetic coma from hyperglycemia.
  • November 17, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    Let's call it Hollywood Diabetes, then. Also, I vote for Sharlee D's help with the description. He/She seems to know a few more of the finer points than I do (which are mostly sort of half-baked research).
  • November 17, 2012
    StarSword
    Index it under Artistic License Medicine.

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