September 2016
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JLME Call for Papers: Symposium Issue on Stigma and Health
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JLME Call for Papers: Symposium Issue on Stigma and Health

Stigma is corrosive. It is capable of causing intense psychosocial harm. Even after controlling for every conceivable confounder, members of social groups persistently subjected to stigma get sicker and die quicker than their counterparts. Accordingly, many social epidemiologists regard stigma as an independent social determinant of health. 

Stigma is therefore increasingly being regarded as a major population health concern by leading epidemiologists, physicians, and public health officials.  Moreover, as stigma scholars note, the definition of stigma is inextricably linked to power structures, which means that stigma strongly tracks social inequalities: disadvantaged groups are more likely to be stigmatized than privileged groups.  In turn, given what we know about health inequalities, this fact suggests that the least well-off groups in the US are most likely to have their disadvantage intensified by stigma.  

Stigma is social. It is not correct to say that a disease or a health condition stigmatizes anyone. It is always people who stigmatize other people.  And, unfortunately, although stigma can flow from a number of sources, there is ample evidence of the commonality with which health care providers, public health officials, and policymakers channel and intensify stigma against the least well-off.  Therefore, stigma is not merely of interest to medical and public health stakeholders because of its health impact.  Rather, because stigma has historically and continues to be so commonly inflicted on vulnerable and disadvantaged communities specifically by health professionals and policymakers -- even when they do not intend to do so – it is of great ethical concern.

Given the significance of stigma to health and the historical and enduring trend of its perpetuation via health policies and practices, the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics plans to publish a symposium issue in Winter 2017 on the subject of stigma and health. This issue will be guest edited by Daniel Goldberg, an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in the Center for Bioethics & Humanities. 

Papers from any perspective or disciplinary background and concerning any aspect of the “stigma and health” are welcome. We are primarily interested in papers between 15 and 30 double-spaced pages in length, although longer papers will receive careful consideration.

Please submit an abstract to thutchinson@aslme.org by November 1, 2016. Decisions on abstracts will be made quickly, and completed papers will be due by March 15, 2017. All submitted papers will undergo additional review by anonymous peers prior to final acceptance.


The symposium will explore a variety of topics related to stigma and health, including but not limited to:

  • the justification of stigma in achieving desirable public health consequences;
  • the connections between stigma and social/health inequalities;
  • the ethical, legal, and policy implications of regarding stigma as a social determinant of health;
  • the extent to which anti-stigma mechanisms ought to be prioritized in health policies and practices;
  • the moral obligations, if any, that providers and health professionals have to reduce stigma and discrimination in their policies and practices;
  • connections between stigma and forms of structural discrimination such as racism, sexism, ableism, etc.
  • ethical and legal implications of the cognitive science of stigma (including implicit and explicit bias);
  • histories of stigma in the health professions (especially racial animus);
  • whether laws and policies are important anti-stigma mechanisms (given that laws and policies can both intensify and ameliorate pre-existing stigma)
  • priority-setting in anti-stigma interventions;
  • the moral permissibility of public health campaigns that raise a probability of stigmatizing disadvantaged groups;
  • legal and policy pathways to addressing highly stigmatized public health and medical problems (type 2 diabetes, pain, lung cancer, etc.).

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