People seeking medically assisted death can now call Sask.'s health line

As of November 1, people with queries about medically assisted death or who are seeking the service can call Saskatchewan's 811 health line to speak with the provincial manager of the program or a registered nurse.

Doctor welcomes the change, says getting information can be confusing

Michelle Fisher, provincial manager of Saskatchewan's MAID program, says people can now start the process of getting medical assistance in dying by the provincial 811 health line.

People seeking medical assistance in dying (MAID) now have a new number to call in Saskatchewan. 

As of November 1, the provincial 811 health line — staffed with clinicians to provide general health information and advice — can connect people to the provincial manager of the MAID program.

"So there was I think a lot of, not confusion, but a lot of unknowns," said Michelle Fisher, provincial manager of MAID. 

"Where could people find the information. It was kind of buried in websites. It became more so word of mouth, where to find it."

She said 811 now provides a central access point for anyone seeking medically assisted death or general information about the procedure.

"Patients could find out information and they weren't having to look in a time where they may already be very emotionally challenged and facing many other health challenges."

Family doctors still the ideal referrers

Fisher said people seeking general information about medically assisted dying can speak to a clinician, but those wanting to begin the process can speak directly to her, who will get them started with paperwork and referrals.  

"I think that's a really good change," said Dr. Lilian Thorpe, member of Saskatoon's medically assisted dying team for the Saskatchewan Health Authority and a faculty member at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine.

"It's really difficult for people to know who and how to access this," she said, adding getting information can be especially challenging for people living in smaller areas and those with doctors object to the procedure. 

Thorpe said the ideal is still for information and referrals for medically assisted dying to come from family doctors. 

"The health line directly for patients is probably and hopefully going to happen really just for those people who don't know who to [approach]."

About the Author

Stephanie Taylor

Reporter, CBC Saskatchewan

Stephanie Taylor is a reporter based in Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC News in Regina, she covered municipal politics in her hometown of Winnipeg and in Halifax. Reach her at stephanie.taylor@cbc.ca