Jae Blakley is working to improve access to medical assistance in dying — or MAID — in Saskatoon after years of experience working in palliative care.
“I’ve seen a lot of death… and not all of it has been good death,” he said.
Last February he started fundraising for a new home-like facility for MAID called the Saskatoon Cider House. A few thousand dollars have trickled in since.
“Based on support that’s been put forward for the palliative care unit at St. Paul’s Hospital and Hospice at Glengarda, there certainly is an appetite for expanding the continuum of palliative and end of life care and we certainly fit into that,” Blakley said.
Blakley said his plans for the Cider House hinge on Bill C-7 which is still before parliament.
The proposed changes in Bill-C7 would expand access to MAID to people who are suffering unbearable pain but are not dying.
That could include those with an incurable illness or disability.
Advocates worry that this means people with disabilities may seek MAID due to inadequate access to supports including housing, adequate financial aid and health care.
“But for people with a disability, in effect we’re saying, ‘Well, for you, there must be nothing worse than living with a disability, and having a disability must be a fate worse than death.'”
Dying with Dignity Canada says this could actually put MAID further out of reach for Canadians due to some of the proposed changes that would extend the process to apply and receive MAID services.
“I do think there will be a dropout of assessors and providers who will not want to provide under the more rigid conditions of Bill C-7,” Dying with Dignity Canada board member Chantal Perrot said Thursday.
Provincial health statistics show 154 people received medical assistance in dying last year in Saskatchewan — up from 97 in 2019 and 85 in 2018.
Saskatchewan’s health ministry said in a statement to Global News it is not considering additional options for MAID provision like the Cider House, saying, in part:
“The provincial program is meeting current demand for services, and we will continue to monitor the volumes of patients receiving medical assistance in dying, any barriers to access, and make adjustments, as appropriate.”
Blakley is waiting to receive charitable status for Saskatoon Cider House in preparation of Bill C-7’s outcome.
“I want to get us to a place in society where we can have better deaths than I think we’re dealing with right now,” Blakley said.