If You Would Not Criminalize Poverty, Do Not Medicalize it

12 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2018

See all articles by William M. Sage

William M. Sage

University of Texas at Austin School of Law; University of Texas at Austin - Dell Medical School

Jennifer E. Laurin

University of Texas School of Law

Date Written: July 15, 2018

Abstract

A growing number of health policy scholars argue, with strong empirical support, that U.S. social policy is substantially over-medicalized. Having observed in recent decades that American society tends to criminalize that which it does not medicalize, we suspect that the measurably harsh consequences of criminalizing poverty offer cautions for its continued medicalization. The American moral and economic ideal of self-sufficiency unavoidably links poverty, criminality, and infirmity. Juxtaposing medicalization and criminalization reveals the ambiguities of “opportunity” when capacity is compromised, and the consequent tension between liberty and welfare as the core objective of policy. Indeed, past reformers made arguments for a positive role of criminal justice in the relief of poverty that are similar to those aired in the healthcare context today. Ultimately, however, we urge policymakers to disconnect the relief of poverty from medical care as much as possible -- not only to avoid further disadvantaging the poor, but also to encourage investment in unadorned benefits to poorer Americans that have greater potential, particularly at the local level, to build trust and cooperation without the economic and social mischief that has accompanied the medical model.

Keywords: healthcare, medicalization, poverty, criminalization, criminal justice

JEL Classification: I14, I18, I38

Suggested Citation

Sage, William Matthew and Laurin, Jennifer E., If You Would Not Criminalize Poverty, Do Not Medicalize it (July 15, 2018). Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, Forthcoming, U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 690, U of Texas Law, Law and Econ Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3214307

William Matthew Sage (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

University of Texas at Austin - Dell Medical School ( email )

Austin, TX 78712

Jennifer E. Laurin

University of Texas School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

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