Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When bullying threatens lives...

Today I want to talk about a very very serious issue - bullying.

Now, we all know that bullying goes on in schools and, unfortunately, in some instances, can even occur in the workplace.

Bullying is always harmful, but what happens when the victim of bullying has a medical condition? What happens when the actions of others who are completely ignorant about a particular medication or medical condition could result in loss of life?

Yesterday I learned of a case of workplace bullying involving a young man with Type 1 Diabetes that left many members of the T1D community speechless.

This young man arrived at a new job, in a relatively remote area, and during the course of the day some other employees decided it would be funny to destroy his insulin supplies! He was left only with the insulin pen he had on his person at the time, which would not have lasted very long.

Several months ago I also learned of a teenage T1D boy who had been bullied repeatedly in the school environment, however this was taken to another level when a fellow student cut the tubing from his insulin pump!

This is not just bullying, this is criminal negligence.

Below are a number of passages taken from R v Pacino: Extending the Limits of Criminal Negligence? - under the heading "Definitions" of an article written by Law Student, Ian Macfarlane which appears in Volume 5, No. 1 (March 1998) of the Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law:

3. At common law criminal negligence is not to be confused with negligence at tort. Criminal negligence requires a greater standard of proof on those who wish to prove it (i.e. the Crown), as is indicated by Hewart LCJ in R v Bateman:[6]  
      In explaining to juries the test which they should apply to determine whether the negligence, in the particular case, amounted or did not amount to a crime, judges have used many epithets, such as "culpable," "criminal," "gross," "wicked," "clear," "complete." But, whatever epithet be used and whether an epithet be used or not, in order to establish criminal liability the facts must be such that, in the opinion of the jury, the negligence of the accused went beyond a mere matter of compensation between subjects and showed such disregard for the life and safety of others as to amount to a crime against the State and conduct deserving punishment.[7] 
4. This test for criminal negligence was followed in Andrews v DPP[8] by the House of Lords. In Australia the test was followed by the Queensland Court of Criminal Appeal in R v Scarth[9] and by the High Court inR v Callaghan[10] and Evgeniou v R.[11]

5. Negligence at tort, on the other hand, looks at the defendant's conduct in comparison to a standard of reasonable care.[12] In Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks Co[13] Alderson B defined the standard as: 

      [T]he omission to do something which the reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or do something which a prudent and reasonable man would not.[14]

I have highlighted in bold type the statements that stood out to me in these passages that could directly relate to the instances of bullying referred to above.

This type of behaviour is NOT acceptable.

Destroying life-sustaining medical supplies or the means of the delivery of life-sustaining medication clearly demonstrates "disregard of the life and safety of others" and is not something that a "prudent and reasonable man" would do.

The question one must ask is, if these people were aware of the potential for loss of life in these circumstances would they have acted in this way.

We can only hope that the answer to that would be a resounding "No."

Therefore, we have yet another reason to raise awareness about Type 1 Diabetes.

As parents, we do whatever we can to ensure that our children are safe and well and are prepared to look after themselves when they take their first steps towards independence. Educating the general public about Type 1 Diabetes will not only provide a greater understanding of this condition but will also make people think twice about interfering with life-sustaining medications and medical equipment.

In the event that you, your child or someone you know has been the victim of bullying or workplace harassment, particularly if they have a medical condition, please be sure to report these incidents to the relevant authorities and, if necessary, seek advice as to whether your particular case should be taken further.

Below is a video made by Diabetes UK about Bullying and Type 1 Diabetes:

Throughout this post you will find links to a number of resources available to parents, children, employees and employers with respect to bullying. These are essentially Australian resources however for international readers there are many local organisations and resources accessible online.

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