Conditions that cannot be cured (2023)

Despite advances in modern medicine, sometimes medical conditions cannot be fixed. An advanced, progressive or terminal illness is an incurable, life-limiting condition that is likely to cause a person of any age to die within days, weeks, months or sometimes more than a year.

Dying is an inevitable part of life, but no two end of life situations are the same as death and dying are uniquely personal experiences.

If you have an illness that cannot be cured and will lead to the end of your life, the focus of care will shift from aiming to cure to ensuring you have the best possible quality of life.

This means a focus on:

  • symptom control
  • independence
  • emotional, spiritual and cultural wellbeing
  • planning for the future.

This is not just for people in the last days of life. Care at the end of life can be provided for a few weeks or months, or extended over several years.

It is available for everyone regardless of age, culture, background, beliefs or where you live.

Some of the common medical conditions of people requiring care at the end of life include:

  • cancer
  • dementia, including Alzheimer's disease
  • advanced lung, heart, kidney and liver disease
  • stroke and other neurological diseases, including motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Huntington’s disease
  • muscular dystrophy
  • other degenerative or deteriorating conditions relating to ageing.

Find more information about treatment and care towards the end of life.

Use this tool to search for more information about specific conditions.

Care providers

People who may provide care at the end of life include:

  • doctors, including general practitioners, palliative care specialists and other specialist doctors
  • nurses, including general and specialised nurses in the community, hospitals, palliative care units, residential aged care facilities and hospices
  • allied health professionals, including social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, pharmacists, dietitians, speech pathologists and leisure therapists
  • family members and informal carers
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers
  • support workers, such as assistants in nursing, personal care attendants and diversional therapists
  • pastoral carers/chaplains from different religious, spiritual and cultural backgrounds
  • volunteers.

Planning ahead

Advance care planning is a process of planning now for future health and personal care so your values, beliefs and preferences are made known. This can help guide future decision-making if you cannot make or communicate your decisions.

Advance care planning is entirely voluntary.

It is important to carry out advance care planning before an urgent issue arises.

Find more information about planning and decisions for the end of life.

Last updated:
16 April 2018
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