Pandemic Eugenics: Discrimination, Disability, & Detention during COVID-19

67 Loyola Law Review 101 (2021)

86 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2021 Last revised: 29 Oct 2021

See all articles by Laura I Appleman

Laura I Appleman

Willamette University College of Law

Date Written: July 5, 2021


The hidden blueprint of eugenics continues to shape the treatment of captive and vulnerable populations throughout the recent pandemic. Though nominally discredited, eugenic thinking continues to guide our twenty-first-century incarceration policies and our discriminatory treatment of detained, disabled, and neglected populations. During COVID-19, this unrecognized reliance on eugenics has been at the root of a cascade of disasters: disregard for the welfare of the incarcerated, who have fought COVID-19 without supplies, social distancing ability, or compassionate release; hospital rationing policies limiting use of ventilators, hospital beds, and other medical devices by disabled and elderly individuals; the skyrocketing death toll in nursing and long-term care homes; and the profound neglect of group home residents, including children in foster care and the cognitively and developmentally disabled.

These inequitable practices follow a pattern consistent with the philosophy of eugenics. Our society has isolated a class of “unfit” and “unvalued” people, whose lives and dignity are treated as less worthy than others. This Article reveals the hidden eugenic thinking supporting our mistreatment of disabled, captive, and vulnerable individuals during the pandemic, and proposes broad and longer-lasting solutions to this legacy of discrimination.

Suggested Citation

Appleman, Laura I, Pandemic Eugenics: Discrimination, Disability, & Detention during COVID-19 (July 5, 2021). 67 Loyola Law Review 101 (2021) , Available at SSRN: or

Laura I Appleman (Contact Author)

Willamette University College of Law ( email )

245 Winter St. SE
Salem, OR 97301
United States
(503) 370-6651 (Phone)

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