As an example, HIV used to be considered a terminal disease by doctors. Nowadays, there are treatments which extend life significantly for HIV patients, and doctors consider it to be a manageable disease through treatment rather than terminal.

Does the law have an explicit definition of terminal disease? Or what qualifies a disease to be used as a reason for assisted suicide in relevant jurisdiction?


1 Answer 1


The law in Washington, RCW 70.245, redined "terminal illness" as

an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months.

California law and Hawaii law say the same thing

In Oregon, under ORS 127.505, the relevant term is "terminal condition", defines as

a health condition in which death is imminent irrespective of treatment, and where the application of life-sustaining procedures or the artificial administration of nutrition and hydration serves only to postpone the moment of death of the principal.

The law of The Netherlands is less restrictive, and does not involve "terminal" conditions. The most relevant condition from article 2 is that there must be a finding that "the patient's suffering is unbearable with no prospect of improvement" (plus, there are informed consent and a second opinion standards to be met). The Canadian law in §241.2 requires that "they have a grievous and irremediable medical condition". That means, specifically, that

(a) they have a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability;

(b) they are in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;

(c) that illness, disease or disability or that state of decline causes them enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable; and

(d) their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable, taking into account all of their medical circumstances, without a prognosis necessarily having been made as to the specific length of time that they have remaining.

Simply having been exposed to a virus, or even contracting the disease AIDS, does not qualify under the law. At later points in the progression of the diseases, it could – depending on jurisdiction.

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