Regional Spotlight: Navigating death and dying in Saskatchewan  

Webinars | February 21, 2023

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Regional Spotlight: Navigating death and dying in Saskatchewan  

On February 21, 2023, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) hosted a Regional Spotlight on Death and Dying in Saskatchewan. We were joined by Dr. Lilian Thorpe and Debra Wiszniak, RSW, to learn about navigating medical assistance in dying (MAID) and other end-of-life options in Saskatchewan’s health care system. This webinar was not recorded, but we captured some key takeaways from the presentation.

Key Takeaway #1: Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is patient-centered and patient-guided 

Canada’s assisted dying legislation has been guided by human rights activists such as Sue Rodriguez, Kay Carter, Gloria Taylor, Jean Truchon, and Nicole Gladu. Sue Rodriguez was living with ALS when she challenged the validity of the Criminal Code prohibition on assisted dying under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While her appeal was dismissed, it paved the way for Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor to launch a constitutional challenge which ultimately led to Bill C-14, Canada’s original medical assistance in dying law. Four years later, Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu, two Canadians living with disabilities, launched a constitutional challenge against the reasonably foreseeable death requirement and set the stage for the passage of Bill C-7. Dr. Lilian Thorpe and her colleague, Dr. Rob Weiler, developed the MAID process for the Saskatoon Health Authority region after the passage of Bill C-14 in 2016. 

Key Takeaway #2: Saskatchewan has a unique Provincial MAID Program that manages MAID requests for nurse practitioners and physicians in the province 

Medical assistance in dying is managed by the provinces and territories, together with other health care services in Canada. Each jurisdiction has their own system, but Saskatchewan is unique in that there is a centralized program that streamlines MAID requests. Every request for medical assistance in dying in Saskatchewan must go through the Provincial MAID Program, and all who are involved with MAID in the province must be approved by the Program. This oversight increases safety but also reduces barriers to access. For example, some health care providers are conscientious objectors and patients struggle with accessing resources. Under the Provincial MAID Program, a family physician is not needed – nor is a referral – making MAID more accessible to those who qualify. 

Key Takeaway #3: Social work is a key component of the Provincial MAID Program in Saskatchewan 

Debra Wiszniak, RSW, is a social worker with the Provincial MAID Program in Saskatchewan. She, along with her colleagues, provides psychosocial end-of-life support to individuals and families navigating the MAID process. She connects with patients and families before, during, and after the MAID provision, helping people communicate about death and dying, get their affairs in order, and manage anticipatory grief. She also provides bereavement support in the form of support groups and bereavement resources. To connect with a social worker, patients and families can call the Provincial MAID Program and ask to speak with a social worker.  

Contact Information 

The Provincial MAID Program operates Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and is closed on weekends and statutory holidays. They can be reached at 1-833-473-6243.  


HealthLine: 8-1-1 

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