Two senior physicians in palliative care say a whole generation of doctors has not been trained in the care of the dying.
Palliative care started in New Zealand in the 1980s and has been taught at medical schools only in the last five to 10 years, meaning many senior doctors are untrained in it.
Dr Simon Allan and Dr Frank Brennan say doctors in many Western countries did not get the training, partly because palliative care was a new discipline and partly because people did not want to talk about it.
Dr Allan says that meant the basic dignity of some patients was sometimes ignored.
Dr Brennan says it is vital junior doctors and nurses are trained to clearly communicate with the family members of dying patients.