As the Canadian Medical Association meets in Calgary this week, one of the issues doctors are grappling with is end-of-life care.  

The group of doctors now recommends everyone 18 and older have a dying directive — what used to be known as a living will — to let their loved ones know their dying wishes.

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The Canadian Medical Association is holding its general council meeting in Calgary this week. Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose spoke to CMA members Monday. (CBC)

Anna Reid, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said it comes down to doctors providing comfort — their No. 1 priority under the Hippocratic Oath.

"So good palliative care and good advanced directive planning is all about comfort care," she said.

"How do we relieve people’s symptoms? How do we make the end part of their life as quality and as meaningful as it can be?"

Seniors strategy wanted, finds poll

CMA members are also discussing how to improve the quality of end-of-life care by keeping palliative patients out of hospital settings longer.

"We know that a lot of the appropriate care that we need to give as seniors get older would be best delivered in the home and in a community setting," she said.

"We don’t have actually a good pan-Canadian strategy for how to do that."

A new study shows a vast majority of Canadians want a national health-care strategy for seniors.

Respondents say it would ease the burden hospitals and long-term care facilities must shoulder with an aging baby boomer population. But the poll finds such a strategy would only work with input from all levels of government.

Health minister addresses conference

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said in her first speech to the CMA that efficiencies in the health-care system can be found through new technology.

"There is still a lot left that can be done. I think that is where we can make some gains in the system and I think it's an area where the federal government can take leadership," she said.  

Ambrose also said she wants her department to improve dialogue with doctors and nurses.

But most of her speech focused on spousal violence. Ambrose says domestic violence costs the country at least $7.4 billion a year, and $6 billion of that goes to health-care costs.

She said abused spouses are more likely to confide in their physicians than anyone else.