Anyone who called the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s 811 healthcare line earlier this month had the option of selecting menu option five, which would put them in touch with the physician-assisted dying program.
This fifth option is no longer available.
MAID is one of the end-of-life care options in Saskatchewan. Online, the province describes the program as “compassionate, patient-centered, family-centered care.”
In an emailed statement to the CBC, Everett Hindley, the minister for mental health, said 811 provides a 24/7 call service for people with mental health issues. .
“It doesn’t make sense to greet people with a message that could potentially imply that suicide is an option,” Hindley said.
He confirmed that his office ordered the Saskatchewan Health Authority to remove the MAID message from the 811 Medicare line.
When asked what led to the dismissal, the province said the issue was originally raised by “a mental health and suicide prevention advocate for whom suicide is a deeply personal issue. “.
However, the official opposition sees the matter differently.
In an emailed statement to the CBC, the NDP said 811 is a health information service and that it is reasonable for the 811 service to provide information about MAID – “a health care procedure health to which the people of Saskatchewan have the right to access”.
“While it is important to be sensitive to the needs of people who call 811 and who are at risk of suicide, the government should find a solution to ensure that residents who call 811 and seek information about way to access MAID can find them,” said the NDP.
Bernier sounded the alarm in August
The removal of the MAID option comes after Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, took aim at the 811 service in a series of tweets in August, calling it a “cult of death.”
Bernier discovered the 811 option when a supporter at a rally in Saskatchewan alerted him.
“I was very upset by that,” Bernier told CBC on Friday.
Press 5 if you want us to kill you!
Medical assistance in dying is just another option offered by the 8-1-1 health helpline in Saskatchewan. They make it as quick and easy as possible.
THIS IS A DEATH CULT!
Bernier says he is in favor of medical assistance in dying and has even voted in favor of it as an MP. However, he disagrees with provincial governments openly “promoting” it.
“It has to come from the patient or from the patient’s families and friends,” he said. “And so it’s not the role of medical staff to promote that, because when they do, it’s seen, perhaps incorrectly, as pressuring a patient to end their life. “
Bernier says the federal government should reopen MAID legislation to impose more restrictions on it: “It must be criminal for medical personnel to promote this.”
It’s unclear whether Bernier’s calls for the government to remove Option 811 were related to his disappearance. But Bernier said he’s grateful to residents who are “putting pressure on their government.”
“I’m happy and a bit surprised and it’s a good thing that the government has decided not to offer this option anymore,” he said. “To me, that tells me we were right and common sense prevails.”
Bernier says he supports making information about MAID easily available on the Saskatchewan government’s website.