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Let’s View Living as More Than the Quantity of Breaths We Take

Most medical professionals will try to keep you alive even though they know they won’t succeed. Because that is what they are taught to do. 

Do you want it any other way? Do we want it any other way? Yes. We do, at least I do. 

I want the medical profession, the medical model we find in doctors’ offices and hospitals, to do everything possible to help me not only regain my health, but to return from an illness with the energy and ability to enjoy life. 

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Running, jumping, or even going back to work. But I do want to be able to respond, to enjoy, to feel, to interact. I even want to be able to laugh and to smile.

I’m willing to be limited in my physical functioning, even limited in my mental acuity but you, the medical professional, have to be honest with me. You have to tell me, up front, this is what your body is doing, this is how the disease is going to progress, this is what we can offer you, and this is what our treatment plan is likely or unlikely to achieve.”

Give me ALL the options and possible outcomes so I can make a decision based on knowledge and truth. Let ME decide how much of a gambler I am in MY future and how I will end up living it.

Some people will say I am a fighter to my last breath and do EVERYTHING to keep breathing. Some people will say I’m not a gambler, I want to get as much living in while I have it, without being tied down to procedures with the hope that they work.

I want our medical profession, our medical model, to focus on PEOPLE that have diseases and health challenges. To focus on helping those people faced with health challenges to live their best life.

Today, our medical model treats DISEASES that people have. Its focus is on addressing whatever issue is threatening the heart’s beating, the lungs’ breathing, the kidneys’ functioning. The focus seems to be on stopping whatever is trying to end a life. It seems there is a missing component here. Missing are considerations of whether life is just about breathing, circulation, and peeing; or is it about being able to experience, to feel, to enjoy what the heart, lungs and kidneys are giving us. 

Everyone and everything dies. Our bodies begin dying the moment we are born. The body is programmed to die. 

I’d like us to recognize quality of life as a part of healing. I would like those of us who have chosen the career of medicine to view living as more than the quantity of breaths we take. Do we make decisions on who lives and who dies? NO, but we do give people and their significant others honest, direct, clear, understandable information.

Something More about…   Let’s View Living as More Than the Quantity of Breaths We Take

If you are diagnosed with a life limiting illness, my booklet A Time To Live, Living with a Life-Threatening Illness, addresses issues of comfort, nutrition, and sleep as they relate to the palliative care patient. It provides guidance to help live the best life you can within the confines of your body and disease.   

A Time to Live honors whatever life prolonging choices are being made while at the same time suggesting we look at the gifts life offers each day.   


Originally Published on

Barbara Karnes Registered Nurse

Barbara Karnes, RN Award Winning End of Life Educator, Award Winning Nurse, NHPCO Hospice Innovator Award Winner 2018 & 2015 International Humanitarian Woman of the Year

While at the bedside of hundreds of people during the dying process, Hospice Pioneer Barbara Karnes noticed that each death was following a near identical script. Each person was going through the stages of death in almost the same manner and most families came to her with similar questions. These realizations led Barbara to sit down and write Gone From My Sight, "The Little Blue Book" that changed the hospice industry.

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