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Saskatchewan team working to raise $1M for medical assistance in dying facility

Saskatoon one step closer to brick-and-mortar MAID facility
WATCH: A non-profit wants to raise $1-million to establish a facility dedicated to medical assistance in dying.

The team working to establish Saskatoon’s first facility dedicated to medical assistance in dying (MAID) took a major step forward on Monday.

The Cider House launched its website and capital fundraising campaign, with sights set on raising $1 million for a brick-and-mortar facility. The organization received non-profit status last month, and board members hope to have shovels in the ground within three years.

“There are people who are dying in hospitals right now who shouldn’t be — who don’t want to,” board chair Jae Blakley told Global News.

READ MORE: New study finds medical aid in dying not driven by lack of access to palliative care

“Because there isn’t this centralized location for people to go, it’s difficult to access MAID.”

The provincially funded service is typically delivered at home, hospitals and palliative care facilities.

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The Cider House will offer a home-like environment, with up to five patient beds and a team of death doulas, a physician and a social worker. Patients would stay at the facility for two or three days to prepare for their deaths and visit with loved ones.

“Having to see someone waste away in a hospital can be traumatic,” he said. “Having a facility like The Cider House allows us to provide people with those good deaths and care for not just the patients, but their families and friends at the same time.”

Blakley defines a “good death” as dying comfortably, on your own terms.

Sask. team working to raise $1M for brick and mortar medical assistance in dying facility
The Cider House founder Jae Blakley wants to raise $1 million for a facility dedicated specifically to MAID. Slavo Kutas / Global News

Since the legalization of MAID in June 2016, about seven people access the service each month in Saskatchewan, the provincial government said.

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“The provincial program is meeting current demand for the services,” the province said in a statement to Global News.

“We will monitor the volume of patients receiving medical assistance in dying, any barriers to access, and make adjustments, as appropriate.”

The Cider House hasn’t received any provincial grants, Blakley said.

READ MORE: Majority of Canadians surveyed support broader assisted dying law: Leger poll

“[The Health Ministry] said, ‘You’re welcome to do it, but you’re going to go it alone,’” he said. “Because they don’t have an interest in it, that’s meant we’re having to fundraise exclusively through private donors.”

He hopes City Hospital or Royal University Hospital foundations will partner with The Cider House to assist with fundraising efforts.

Blakley, who works as a continuing care assistant at a local nursing home, said he often hears stories from supporters who wish their late loved ones could have accessed MAID. Board member Kayla watched her great-grandmother deteriorate from Alzheimer’s disease.

“It just was really, really heartbreaking for the family,” she said. “I definitely believe that if she could have accessed MAID to be able to pass on her own terms, it would’ve been much easier and … a more comfortable experience for everyone involved.”