The dawn of the twenty-first century brought with it a profound change in the way we experience death. Until the last decades of the twentieth century, our bodies died all at once: when the heart kidneys, lungs, or brain failed, the body's other organs failed with them. Modern medicine now allows us to die in pieces, with failing organs supported or supplanted by technology. Modern death is different not only biologically, but also sociologically. Until the twentieth century, death was a private event that took place in the home with the family. It offered one final opportunity for family members and friends to engage with loving care, to forgive and ask forgiveness, and to relive life events, great and small. Today, death takes place mostly in the hospital, in sterile rooms full of expensive machinery, with patients who are drugged, unconscious, hooked up to machines and unable to speak - even if their bodies were still capable of doing so. Doctors, lawyers, nurses, social workers, ethicists, and family members enter a complex dynamic as treatment decisions are made for the unconscious patient, and therapies are applied or refused.
Martin Bienstock, How We Die: A New Prescription, 20 J.L. & Health 17 (2006-2007)