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Healthism: Health-Status Discrimination and the Law

Professor Jessica L.Roberts, Director of the Health Law & Policy Institute at the University of Houston Law Center, and Elizabeth Weeks, Associate Dean for Faculty Development at the University of Georgia School of Law, propose in this book a new protected category – the unhealthy – and a new form of discrimination – healthism. They say in the Preface that not all differentiation on the basis health necessarily constitutes healthism and their aim is to distinguish the “good” health distinctions from the “bad,” or “healthist” ones. They do not argue against differentiation on the basis of health status when doing so promotes responsible behaviors, but they do consider such differentiation undesirable when it perpetuates existing health disparities and social disadvantage.

The first chapter discusses the meaning of the term “healthism.” Chapter two delves into understanding it and sets forth a rubric in table form with two major categories: 1) Characteristics of Socially Desired Health-status Differentiation and 2) Characteristics of Heathism. The purpose of the rubric is to create a vocabulary and platform for discussion “to enrich debates surrounding health policy.” The following chapters include those discussing limits of antidiscrimination and privacy law, limits of health insurance law, and limits of private law. In the final chapter, the rubric is again presented, and then the authors apply those guiding principles using case studies.

The authors hope that by introducing healthism into the legal and policy lexicon, attention will be drawn to this under-examined form of discrimination. They want to start a conversation about health-status discrimination and provide a framework to guide law- and policy-makers who want to promote health while avoiding discrimination.

The book has extensive footnotes and a thorough Index. It could be useful to attorneys in practice and as a textbook for health law studies. It is available on the New Titles Shelf at the O’Quinn Law Library.

Healthism: Health-Status Discrimination and the Law, Cambridge University Press, 2018. 


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