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Terminal illness or end-stage disease is a disease that cannot be cured or adequately treated and is reasonably expected to result in the death of the patient. This term is more commonly used for progressive diseases such as cancer or advanced heart disease than for trauma. In popular use, it indicates a disease that will progress until death with near absolute certainty, regardless of treatment. A patient who has such an illness may be referred to as a terminal patient, terminally ill or simply terminal. There is no standardized life expectancy for a patient to be considered terminal, although it is generally months or less. Life expectancy for terminal patients is a rough estimate given by the physician based on previous data and does not always reflect true longevity.[1] An illness which is lifelong but not fatal is a chronic condition.

Terminal patients have options for disease management after diagnosis. Examples include caregiving, continued treatment, hospice care, and physician-assisted suicide. Decisions regarding management are made by the patient and his or her family, although medical professionals may give recommendations or more about the services available to terminal patients.[2][3]

Lifestyle after diagnosis varies depending largely on management decisions and also the nature of the disease, and there may be living restrictions depending on the condition of the patient. Oftentimes, terminal patients may experience depression or anxiety associated with oncoming death, and family and caregivers may struggle with psychological burdens as well. Psycho-therapeutic interventions may help alleviate some of these burdens, and is often incorporated in palliative care.[2][4]

Because terminal patients are aware of their oncoming deaths, they have more time to prepare advance care planning, such as advance directives and living wills, which have been shown to improve end-of-life care. While death cannot be avoided, patients can still strive to die a good death.[5][6][7]