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Physician-assisted dying and two senses of an incurable condition
  1. Jukka Varelius
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jukka Varelius, Department of Philosophy, Contemporary History, and Political Science, University of Turku, Turku FIN20014, Finland; jukka.varelius{at}


It is commonly accepted that voluntary active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide can be allowed, if at all, only in the cases of patients whose conditions are incurable. Yet, there are different understandings of when a patient's condition is incurable. In this article, I consider two understandings of the notion of an incurable condition that can be found in the recent debate on physician-assisted dying. According to one of them, a condition is incurable when it is known that there is no cure for it. According to the other, a condition is incurable when no cure is known to exist for it. I propose two criteria for assessing the conceptions and maintain that, in light of the criteria, the latter is more plausible than the former.

  • Autonomy
  • Death
  • End-of-life
  • Euthanasia

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