Erick Munoz stands by a photo of his wife, Marlise Munoz, at home in Fort Worth, Texas, on Jan. 3. She is being kept on life support in a local hospital against the family's wishes. Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images hide caption

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What seemed like a burden can become a gift. iStockphoto hide caption

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Smith talks with Dawn Dillard, 57, about a medical procedure at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. Dillard has uterine cancer. Annie Feidt/APRN hide caption

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Charles Ornstein with his mother, Harriet Ornstein, on his wedding day, weeks after she was mugged in a parking lot and knocked to the pavement with a broken nose. Randall Stewart/Courtesy of Charles Ornstein hide caption

itoggle caption Randall Stewart/Courtesy of Charles Ornstein

Joe Takach comforts his friend Lillian Landry, as she spends her last days in the hospice wing of a hospital in Oakland Park, Fla., in 2009. J. Pat Carter/AP hide caption

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Students at Georgetown University School of Medicine prepare to meet with an actor playing a patient in an exam room in March. Kevin Wolf/AP hide caption

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Dr. Joel Policzer checks on his patient, Lillian Landry, in the hospice wing of an Florida hospital in 2009. A new study found that many terminally ill cancer patients don't fully understand their prognosis. J. Pat Carter/AP hide caption

itoggle caption J. Pat Carter/AP