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)

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

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
B.C. forestry watchdog finds lack of compliance in Nahmint logging

Forest Practices Board says old growth and biodiversity near Port Alberni are at risk

Port Alberni Fire Dept. deputy chief Wes Patterson, right, and another firefighter monitor the front of a garage at Second Avenue and Argyle Street that burned on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Fire starts in empty garage on Argyle Street in Port Alberni

Garage was attached to empty multi-storey commercial building

A painting by Port Alberni artist Robert Hall. Hall uses a technique called Abstract Impressionism. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Port Alberni artist showcases abstract impressionism

Robert Hall’s paintings on display at Rollin Art Centre until May 29

Rob Mah was just 20 when he hosted Strictly Jazz, a radio show on CJAV radio in Port Alberni, B.C. A fan of the Big Band era of music, he spun a lot of Dixieland jazz on his show. (PHOTO COURTESY MAH FAMILY)
QUINN’S QUIPS: Radio station’s 75th brings memories to Mah family

Celebrating the late Rob Mah’s victories timely for national Asian heritage month

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, watchdog says

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. money laundering inquiry could have lessons for other provinces: lawyer

4 reports concluded the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash linked to organized crime and the drug trade impacted the province’s real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors

Pixabay
Island Health: two doctors, new clinic space to avert Port McNeill health crisis

Island Health has leased space to use as an immediate clinic location to avert health crisis

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Tinder, an online dating application that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other’s profiles. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. man granted paternity test to see if Tinder match-up led to a ‘beautiful baby’

The plaintiff is seeking contact with the married woman’s infant who he believes is his child

Nurse Tami Arnold prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. (Kareem Elgazzar/AP)
B.C. adults 30+ now eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Health officials made the announcement Wednesday afternoon

Erik Christian Oun, who worked for the Coquitlam school district, has had his teaching licence suspended for half a year. (Pixabay)
B.C. teacher suspended after calling students ‘cutie’ and ‘sweetheart’ in online messages

Erik Oun’s licence has been suspended for half a year, a decision made by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read