Medical industrial complex

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The medical industrial complex is a network of corporations and institutions which supply healthcare services and products for profit and at the expense of promoting care and wellness; complex, overlapping web of eugenics, charity and ableism, population control, and desirability - Abolition & Disability Justice Collective and the work of Mia Mingus, Patty Berne, and Cara Page, adapted by Michelle Xie [1]

The medical industrial complex describes the “interlocking institutions like big pharma, multi-billion dollar health insurance corporations, medical technology companies, and governmental regulatory bodies like the FDA and EPA that form the basis of US Healthcare. They also play a profoundly overlooked role in degrading national and global health, enabling climate change, and perpetuating racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism." -Health Justice Commons [2]

Examples of the medical industrial complex

Targeting oppressed populations

  • Black people were experimented on to advance medicine. [3]
  • Some medical professionals deny queer and trans communities care, or try to 'covert' them to heterosexual. [4]
  • Indigenous women face forced sterilization. [5]
  • Prisoners were experimented on to advance medicine. [6]
  • Psychiatric patients were experimented on to advance medicine. [7]
  • “A black woman is 22% more like to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71% more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243% more like to die from pregnancy- or childbirth- related causes” -Nina Martin [8]


  • Disabled bodies are targeted as something to fix. [9]
  • Disabled people experiencing communication problems are three times more likely to experience adverse health outcomes in the hospital, mainly due to drug errors or poor clinical management. [10]
  • Health care professionals tend to underestimate substantially the quality of life of people with disabilities. Over 80% of physicians assume people with disabilities have a lower quality of life. [11]

For-profit health care

  • Health care services such as dental, vision, nutrition, mental health and physical therapy are part of for-profit health care; they are only available to those who can pay for them.
  • Medications are overprescribed, and often don't treat the root of the problems (which increased reliance, and therefore profit).. Time with patients is limited, thus time for an accurate diagnosis is limited. 55% of adults aged 18 to 79 used at least one prescription medication in the past month, while 24% used three or more. [12]
Birth control for women-identifying people. What about for men?
  • Hormonal birth control is seen as vital and empowering for those who want to use it. But, many women feel they are expected to use hormonal contraception regardless of the side effects they experience. This may be from societal pressure, and/or because of a partners’ refusal to assume equal responsibility for pregnancy prevention. [13]
  • An attempt to create male hormonal birth control pills led to male patients experiencing similar side effects that women experience on hormonal birth control. These side effects led the study on male birth control to be canceled, yet women are expected to put up with these same side effects daily if they want to prevent pregnancy. [14]

A special thanks to Gabrielle Bourbeau for their tremendous support compiling content for this page.

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  2. Health Justice Commons. (NA). Terms Defined - Medical Industrial Complex (MIC).
  6. Osborne, G.B. (2006). Scientific Experimentation on Canadian Inmates, 1955 to 1975. Wiley Online Library.
  7. Noakes, T.C. (2021). Montreal MKULTRA experiments. The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  8. Ettinger, M. C. (2019). Reckoning with the Medical Industrial Complex’s Hidden History, Resisting and Transforming White Supremacy and Male Supremacy in Health and Healing.
  10. Eisley, A. & Mcilvena, L. (2022). What HCPs can do to recognize and address ableism in medicine. GoodRX Health.
  11. Eisley, A. & Mcilvena, L. (2022). What HCPs can do to recognize and address ableism in medicine. GoodRX Health.
  12. Statistics Canada. (2021). Prescription medication use among Canadian adults, 2016 to 2019.
  13. Cheung, K. (2021). The gendered burden to “Just Get on the Pill”: “That is not reproductive freedom. It’s the opposite”. Salon Interview.
  14. Cheung, K. (2021). The gendered burden to “Just Get on the Pill”: “That is not reproductive freedom. It’s the opposite”. Salon Interview.