Healthism: Health-Status Discrimination and the Law
by Jessica L. Roberts & Elizabeth Weeks
In response to a slew of actions or omissions in the contexts of employment, public accommodations and housing, health insurance and health care, tort law, and contract law, that constitute real or perceived discrimination or breaches of privacy against members of particular protected population cohorts, various pieces of federal and state civil rights legislation have proliferated. These statutes, and the regulations that implement them and the judicial decisions that interpret and apply them, are aimed at a constellation of objectionable "isms" predicated on traits such as race, sex, and national origin. Apparently, the resulting legal landscape is not comprehensive or confusing enough for the law professor authors (Roberts at the University of Houston and Weeks at the University of Georgia) of this new book, who propose to add their newly created concept of "healthism" to the list of pervasive social wrongs to be corrected by adding even more laws to the mix.
The origins of the authors' "healthism project" derives from their dissatisfaction with a key facet of current antidiscrimination and privacy laws. Although the Americans with Disabilities, Affordable Care, Employee Retirement and Income Security, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability acts all protect individuals with disabilities, these laws and most of their state counterparts all define "disabilities" in terms of traits (cancer, bipolar disorder, diabetes). Roberts and Weeks want to expand protectability, for purposes of justifying additional legal interventions, to health behaviors or statuses (such as smoking or obesity) that have not yet progressed to a diagnosed condition or trait qualifying for the disabled category today. With the protected population thus enlarged, the authors target for analysis and advocacy those actions, omissions, and laws that distinguish or differentiate intentionally or unintentionally among people who have different health traits or statuses.
This description of healthism...