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

WATCH: ‘Stubborn’ fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

The building, which lit up in flames around 2 a.m., was an infamous spot to Big White locals

Warriors looking for Teddy, hoping for win

West Kelowna hosts their annual Teddy Bear Toss fundraiser Saturday night

Price for one-bedroom rentals in Kelowna jumped 10.8% from October to November

Out of 34 Canadian cities, report said Kelowna had highest monthly rent increase

Rockets drop second straight, conclude 6-game road trip Saturday in Moose Jaw

Kelowna fell short against the Regina Pats 4-3 Friday night

Province covers medical costs for Kelowna boy with spinal muscular atrophy

Spinal taps for Rumi Green’s spinal muscular atrophy treatment cost $120,000 each

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

Frosty will have to pay rent to stay on Okanagan sidewalk next Christmas

Vernon Teach and Learn allowed to keep Frosty up, but will need a permit come January 1

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Conservation officers on the hunt for North Okanagan moose poachers

Officers execute search warrant Friday morning, investigation continues

UPDATE: Highway 1 reopens after vehicle incident near Boston Bar

Initial reports of a jack-knifed semi truck had closed both directions of the highway

Kootnekoff: Accommodating religious celebrations

Employers must be mindful that not everyone celebrates holidays which are days off

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Most Read