Medicalized Death and the Right to Die Movement Prior to the 20th Century, most Americans died at home, surrounded by family, friends, and neighbors. Religion, not medicine, governed the death bed for there was little physicians could do for the dying. Eventually, however, advances in medicine and technology would lead to dramatic changes in the timing and location of death: patients not only began living longer, they were also dying longer, and unlike their predecessors, were more likely to die alone, in institutions, and among strangers. Modern medicine, in its zeal to conquer death, had become obsessed with its curative function and ability to extend the lives of the dying. To many in the medical community, death represented failure and was something to be avoided at all costs, and like many other social problems in the United States, had become medicalized.