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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack baby is the pancake poster child for provincewide fundraiser

Face of one-year-old patient Sauyer Bell is who IHOP chose for its BC Children’s Hospital fundraiser

Residential Tenancy Branch won’t allow B.C. landlord to evict tenant even though he’s in jail

Landlord baffled at arbitrator decision based on notice of hearing not being served properly

From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Central public school principal paints a bleak picture

In 1925, the principal of a Chilliwack school had strong words for a class of Grade 8 students

Fraser Valley couple wins $500K after finding scratch-and-win while moving

  • Robert Walters and Lois Gueret of Agassiz win half a million from Scratch & Win ticket

Stolen truck recovered by RCMP after it was used to commit crimes

Older red Chevy S10 was linked to thefts last weekend from rural and industrial areas of Chilliwack

VIDEO: Feds warned agricultural sector near ‘tipping point’ due to blockades

Canadian Federation of Agriculture points to lack of propane and feed due to Coastal GasLink dispute

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

B.C. Liberals call for assistance on soaring strata insurance rates

NDP’s Carole James says problem is across the country

Naked driver leads Langley, Surrey RCMP on hit and run spree

A Kelowna man has been charged with numerous offences

Most Read