GPs have called for more support and training in providing end-of-life care.
Around three-quarters of doctors agreed they should encourage people to plan for such issues while healthy, a survey of 501 GPs by the King's Fund found.
The poll also showed that 48% of doctors want more help from the NHS to comfort the dying.
Despite the call for increased openness on the subject, only 32% surveyed had discussed the type of care they themselves would like at the end of their life with their own GP, family or friends.
"Death and dying remain one of the last taboos," Niall Dickson, chief executive of the fund, said.
"The fact that GPs themselves struggle with this issue shows how much further we have to go in tackling this topic.
"Too many people are not receiving the care they want and need at the end of their lives - part of that has to do with our collective failure to discuss these matters openly beforehand, when the pressure on everyone is much less."
"Helping people die is reasonable, if you are sure they are dying. Depending on which audit you read, 16% or more of patients are misdiagnosed. There is no coming back from the Liverpool Care Pathway. Planning death needs to be a lot more accurate than the Department of Health swine flu predictions. At the moment, I vote No and vote to keep death and dying as taboo subjects until I trust doctors to get the diagnosis right. At the moment it looks like Russian Roulette" – Dr Liz Miller, London