In this article a comparison is made between various disability theories and their impact on European disability and health legislation. The official disability theories focus on the individual with disabilities. Legislation that emanates from these medically inspired theories has been shown to be inaccurate and inadequate in finding appropriate solutions for disability issues. Alternative theories have developed in response. These theories emphasize the importance of the interrelationship between individuals and their environment. In parallel, new disability legislation and programmes have evolved that acknowledge the social and human rights aspects of disability issues. Up until now health lawyers have played a minor role in the disability debate. They are strongly invited to join the many ongoing discussions. It is felt that their input is particularly needed with respect to a number of issues presently at the forefront of medicine, ethics and law.