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Under-recognised ethical dilemmas of diabetes care in resource-poor settings

Saurav Basu, Nandini Sharma

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2018.048


Ineffective diabetes management results in suboptimal glycaemic control and adverse health outcomes. In resource-poor settings, a combination of high burden of medication nonadherence in patients and therapeutic inertia amongst clinicians is largely attributed to the failure to achieve glycaemic targets in diabetic populations. The potential health risks from intensification of medical therapy for aggressive lowering of glucose levels in Type 2 diabetes patients represents an ethical dilemma between averting risk from overtreatment and preventing future harm from raised blood glucose levels. However, the ethical dilemmas experienced by clinicians in most of the developing world when contemplating prescription of additional oral hypoglycaemic agents or initiating insulin have received little attention from the medical community. Such ethical dilemmas unique to resource-poor settings often emerge from poor availability of drugs, diagnostics and physician consultation time for diabetic patients. Furthermore, existing evidence-based guidelines for diabetes management assume a standard of care which is lacking in such settings. This often compels the developing world clinicians when confronted with such diabetes-related ethical dilemmas to rely solely on their clinical judgement which could be ethically unjust and medically prone to error. Newer research needs to generate evidence to develop best practice guidelines for optimal therapeutic outcomes, while acknowledging the reality of limited healthcare services available in resource-poor settings.

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