Testing relationships: Ethical arguments for screening for type 2 diabetes mellitus with HbA1C
Since the 1990s, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1C) has been the gold standard for monitoring glycaemic control in people diagnosed as having either type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) or type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Discussions are underway about diagnosing diabetes mellitus on the basis of HbA1C titres and using HbA1C tests to screen for T2DM. These discussions have focused on the relative benefits for individual patients, with some attention directed towards reduced costs to healthcare systems and benefits to society. We argue that there are strong ethical reasons for adopting HbA1C-based diagnosis and T2DM screening that have not yet been articulated. The rationale includes the differential impact of HbA1C-based diabetic testing on disadvantaged groups, and what we are beginning to learn about HbA1C vis-à-vis population health. Although it is arguable that screening must primarily benefit the individual, using HbA1C to diagnose and screen for T2DM may promote a more just distribution of health resources and lead to advances in investigating, monitoring and tackling the social determinants of health.
Degeling, C., Rock, M. & Rogers, W. A. (2012). Testing relationships: Ethical arguments for screening for type 2 diabetes mellitus with HbA1C. Journal of Medical Ethics, 38 (3), 180-183.