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This essay reflects on Craig Konnoth’s recent Article, Medicalization and the New Civil Rights, which is a carefully crafted and thought-provoking description of the refashioning of civil rights claims into medical rights frameworks. He compellingly threads together many intellectual traditions—from antidiscrimination law to disability law to health law—to illustrate the pervasiveness of the phenomenon that he describes and why it might be productive as a tool to advance civil rights.

This response, however, offers several reasons why medicalization may not cure all that ails civil rights litigation’s pains and elaborates on the potential risks of overinvesting in medical rights-seeking. It concludes by considering how the COVID-19 pandemic, which has produced a dramatic medical manifestation of social inequities growing out of decades of civil rights deprivation, can illuminate potential benefits and risks of medicalization.


Civil rights law, discrimination, inequality, health policy, health law, conceptual & rhetorical framing, medicalization, Craig Konnoth, individual vs. structural remedies, harm, equal protection, policy feedback

Publication Title

Stanford Law Review Online

Publication Citation

72 Stan. L. Rev. Online 165 (2020)