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Our letter to the producers of Would I Lie to You?

We wrote to the producers of the hit BBC show after they broadcast jokes about type 1 diabetes.
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Mary-Liz McGrath 1 February 2024

To the Producers of Would I Lie to You?,

I am writing to you as Director of Policy and Communications of JDRF UK, the type 1 diabetes charity, to request a conversation with you about the recent portrayal of type 1 diabetes.

We and many people living with type 1 diabetes feel the producers of Episode 2, Series 17 exercised poor editorial judgement, contributing to the entrenchment of harmful myths around type 1 diabetes and playing the condition for laughs. (Series 17, Episode 2).

In the episode, one of the contestants told a story where she had lied about having type 1 on an aeroplane so that she would be given food to treat the condition. She also said that others around her had given her snacks and sweets in response to her lie and that she had asked a friend at home to falsely update her Wikipedia entry to say that she had type 1 diabetes. The subject and health condition was played for laughs. The follow up segment in the same episode also had the same contestant playing the injecting of insulin in someone living with type 1 diabetes for laughs.

It is our strong view that this kind of humour is inappropriate for broadcast and would certainly not be deemed suitable content for other life-threatening conditions, such as cancer.

Type 1 diabetes is a life-long autoimmune condition that affects around 413,000 people in the UK, including 36,000 children. People with type 1 have to monitor the condition all day every day, continually adjusting their dosing of insulin and food intake to ensure their blood glucose levels do not go too fatally high or too low; the consequences of which can be life-threatening or lead to complications such as heart failure, sight loss and loss of limbs.

Making jokes about type 1, especially jokes that involve falsely claiming to have type 1 diabetes to obtain free food, can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and contribute to the stigma surrounding this health condition.

Diabetes stigma is evidenced as a contributory factor in the development of significant mental health conditions experienced by up to one in four adults living with diabetes.

We recognise that Would I Lie to You? is a comedy panel show known for its humour and wit. However, I urge you to consider the potential impact of jokes about serious medical conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, on your audience. It is crucial to strike a balance between humour and sensitivity, ensuring that comedy does not come at the expense of perpetuating harmful stereotypes or trivializing important health issues.

We welcome a conversation with the Would I Lie to You? production team to discuss if the continued streaming of the episode is appropriate and how editorial judgement in future can be exercised more effectively.

Yours sincerely,

Hilary Nathan

Director of Policy and Communications, JDRF UK

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