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Sturm College of Law


Public health, Security theater, Health theater


"Security theater" has been defined as an effort to "provide the feeling of security instead of the reality. " The concept of security theater has been discussed in both the popular press and academic literature, but has not yet entered health law. This project suggests that a parallel category of "health theater" picks out a set ofpractices in medical screening and health care delivery that provide a mere simulacrum ofprotection against medical risk, rather than providing genuine medical benefit. Part I summarizes some of the distinctive advantages and disadvantages of health and security theater. Like security theater, health theater frequently comes at high cost; employs high technology in place of individualized, personal assessment; and ignores differences between individuals. And, as with security theater, health theater also amplifies general anxiety and ignores the costs offalse positives. Part II discusses some of the advantages of health theater, including its capacity to make patients feel respected and to produce psychological security. Part III discusses three potential alternatives to health theater: hightouch medicine, precise targeting of diagnostic efforts, and elimination of threats at their source. Last, Part IV considers how law could support alternatives to health theater, focusing on changes in the financing of health care, changes in liability regimes, and increased investment in public health.

Publication Statement

Originally published as Govind Persad, Health Theater, 48 Loy. U. Chi. L. J. 585 (2016).

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Govind Persad


Received from author

File Format



English (eng)


42 pgs

File Size

582 KB

Publication Title

Loyola University Chicago Law Journal



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