Teens have privacy rights, doctor tells inquest into B.C. boy’s opioid death

Elliot Eurchuk died of a drug overdose. He was found unresponsive in his bedroom in April 2018

Elliot Eurchuk. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Rachel Staples)

Two family doctors and an orthopedic surgeon told a B.C. coroner’s inquest Thursday about the dilemmas they faced treating a 16-year-old patient who denied he was abusing drugs but showed signs of a growing opioid addiction.

Elliot Eurchuk was found unresponsive in his bedroom on April 20, 2018 and the coroner’s jury has heard he died of a drug overdose.

The teen’s parents, Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk, both testified this week that privacy laws restricted them from getting medical information about their son to help address his addictions.

But the family doctor who delivered Eurchuk as a baby in July 2001 and treated him up until 18 months before his death testified that teens have a right to privacy about their medical issues.

Dr. Marjorie Van der Linden said she spoke with Eurchuk in November 2016 about the risks of overdose associated with using street drugs after his mother found a bag containing marijuana and sedation-type pills in his room but he defiantly denied using drugs.

“He was denying he had a drug issue,” she said, adding that Eurchuk told her he was selling the pills at school. “He was defiant he wasn’t using.”

READ MORE: Oak Bay mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of inquest into overdose death

Van der Linden said she supported efforts by Eurchuk’s parents to take a tough love approach to their son’s issues, including challenging his behaviours, cutting privileges and scheduling counselling appointments, but she also believed the teen had privacy rights.

“I do believe they have the right to keep their information private,” she said. “In most cases, 15- and 16-year-olds are very clear in what decisions they want, and I would respect that.”

Van der Linden told the jurors she encourages teenage patients to discuss health issues with their parents, but some are not comfortable discussing matters like birth control or abortion.

A year after Eurchuk stopped being her patient, she received medical test results that confirmed opioids in the teen’s blood system.

She said she didn’t recall sharing the drug test information with Eurchuk’s family.

Dr. David Harrison testified he became Eurchuk’s family doctor in July 2017 and found it unusual that the teen asked for a prescription for the opioid Percocet on his first visit to help ease pain from recent shoulder surgery.

He said he checked Eurchuk’s body for signs of needle marks but didn’t find any, but ordered a blood test which revealed opioids.

“I was obviously concerned,” said Harrison, adding a second test in November 2017 also showed opioids.

He said the boy’s family was aware of the test results.

The concerns heightened in February 2018 when Eurchuk was admitted to hospital in Victoria with a blood infection commonly associated with intravenous drug users, said Harrison. He overdosed in the hospital and was revived with Narcan.

Harrison said the family was aware the boy overdosed on street drugs while in the hospital. He said he later spoke privately with Eurchuk in his office, but the teen ”was more ambivalent.”

Eurchuk didn’t want his parents to have the drug overdose information even though they had seen the hospital discharge sheet that disclosed cocaine and fentanyl, said Harrison.

“Internally, I was struggling,” he said. “Should I share and disclose this information to the parents? Elliot has rights. On the other hand, there was a life at risk.”

Harrison told the jury that B.C. needs more treatment facilities and options for adolescents who abuse drugs.

He said the last time he saw Eurchuk was in February 2018.

Harrison left the inquiry in tears. He embraced Staples and said, “Sorry.”

Staples testified earlier about her family’s efforts to help their son recover from serious sports injuries that resulted in him becoming addicted to pain medications and eventually street drugs.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Heather’s Hope Chest offers Chilliwack women and girls a helping hand

The new ‘free store’ for vulnerable women and girls provides them with household items at no charge

Rainbow crosswalk count will rise to 16 in Chilliwack

So far 11 rainbows are painted and five planned, all since council denied the first proposal in September

Brother of Chilliwack homicide victim killed in Surrey on Remembrance Day

Andrew Baldwin shot on Nov. 11, three weeks after Keith Baldwin shot in downtown Chilliwack

Volunteer organization provides first aid and rescue services

Main fundraiser, the Winter Extreme Ski and Board Swap, takes place at Abbotsford Exhibition Park Nov. 16 and 17

WATCH: Paralyzed ex motocross champion is returning to Chilliwack for book launch

Brent Worrall says he is living proof that no one should ever give up hope

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

UPDATE: Metro Vancouver bus drivers to refuse overtime as transit strike escalates

Overtime ban could disrupt 10-15 per cent of bus service in Metro Vancouver

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

South Surrey man and city settle beef over backyard cow

Asad Syed, who kept a calf on his property last year, met City of Surrey in court Tuesday

Batten down the hatches: Wet and windy weekend on the way for coastal B.C.

Environment Canada issues special weather warning for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

Most Read