Why is Parkinson’s called ‘incurable’?

Parkinson’s is often called ‘incurable’.  A dictionary definition is:

  1. ‘not curable; that cannot be cured, remedied, or corrected: an incurable disease.
  2. not susceptible to change: his incurable pessimism.
  3. a person suffering from an incurable disease.’

There are several reasons why I think ‘incurable’ is not a good term to describe Parkinson’s:

  • What exactly does ‘cure’ mean: freedom from symptoms? arresting, reversing or eradicating the disease? prevention? vaccination? restoration of full health? several or all of these?
  • The breakthrough in finding the ‘cure’ could be decades away but equally it could happen tomorrow.
  • Was not at least a partial ‘cure’ found decades ago – levodopa?
  • Why would the ‘cure’ be seen as the ultimate aim of Parkinson’s research by so many people, with so much money spent on it, if it was mission impossible?
  • What would be an example of a condition that has been ‘cured’?  Tetanus, rabies, polio, whooping cough, measles, small pox? – In most cases the decisive step was developing a vaccine.  To my knowledge no neurological condition is considered ‘cured’, as yet.
  • ‘Incurable’ can imply relentless deterioration whereas the rate of deterioration is very individual, uneven and can include temporary improvement of specific symptoms – Parkinson’s is certainly ‘curable’ in the sense of ‘susceptible to change’.

Why do so many of us have to walk out of the first diagnosis meeting with the word ‘incurable’ foremost in our minds?  Billy Connolly puts it like this:

“For instance the guy who gave me the final diagnosis that I had Parkinson’s said it was incurable. Now I think that is terrible; he should have said we have yet to find a cure…leave me a little light on in the corner for Christ’s sake.”

What do you think?


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