New Greece Shoe Policy for Diabetics Favors Amputation

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When she picked me up from the airport recently, Katie Beth shared a shocking story she’d just heard on the news about diabetes patients in Greece receiving foot amputations instead of special shoes.

Here’s how the diabetes shoe-story was reported in Keep Talking Greece:

Greece kills diabetes shoes“If this isn’t an incredible story, I don’t know what it is! The National Social Security Foundation-IKA, the largest health & pension fund in Greece, has decided that the diabetic foot is not necessary! …In a letter to the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Associations of People with Diabetes, IKA wrote that the fund has ceased to grant funds for diabetic shoes, as these special shoes do not prevent patient’s amputation. Amputation can be merely delayed for one to two years. ‘The expected benefit is less than the estimated cost, therefore the foundation does not cover the costs for the shoes,’ concludes IKA.”

I also read a couple of doctor’s blogs and forum posts on the story. I guess I kept hoping to find one to give context and explain that it’s not really so. That didn’t happen.

A discussion of the shoe v. amputation ruling on a podiatrist blog:

“You get an amputation, increased cardiac impact, increases incidence of death within five year…..BOOM! The grave.

Problem taken care of.

I hate to be so lurid but the actuaries will tell you the whole story. By denying the use of diabetic shoes and moving toward more amputations, the Greek politicians are not only affecting the healthcare dollars but also the pension dollars. They are not just chopping off limbs, they are chopping off budget dollars in huge amounts and they need to make the cuts. Sadly, no pun intended.”

Diabetes foot care and shoes are the patients’ decisions, right?

“Every 30 seconds a leg is still lost because of diabetes somewhere in the world. In order to improve diabetic foot care, we need simple rules…”  So begins the well known 10 commandments of the diabetic foot published by the British Medical Journal via the National Institutes of Health. I think foot care was the first and only thing I knew about diabetes for a long time. People I met with diabetes didn’t go barefoot.

I had very little understanding of these needs of diabetes patients. I still don’t have that much. But it’s haunting to imagine someone making those choices for a patient.

I do not want someone deciding for me about my surgical options or Biologics medication either. Not government. And not insurance. I should decide if and when I move on or give up or cut short any part of my life.

Gives new meaning to the saying, “Cut off your nose to spite your face.”

Does the Greek government get that at all? Having patients die sooner saves them money, but at what cost? What is Greece if not her people? What is the point of any country without valuing the life of her people?

I was really upset the day I first heard this. Maybe it was the merciless TSA who drove me to tears or maybe it was the Briton on the plane who mocked me for using a wheelchair. Or maybe it was remembering my travel companion’s parent actually endured amputation a few years ago from diabetes. Anyway, to me, this is no practical policy. This is about real people who won’t walk again or who will die sooner because of this macabre plan. It’s cutting off your foot to spite your shoe.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 29th, 2010 at 6:00 am and is filed under Reality Check. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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