The parents of an Oak Bay teen who died from an accidental overdose are calling for a coroner’s inquest into the events that led to his death.
The intent is not to lay blame, they say, but to prevent other parents and families from having to endure the unnecessary and tragic death of a child.
Elliot Eurchuk was 16 years old when he died of an opioid overdose at his Oak Bay home on April 20. He battled drug dependency after he was prescribed opioids for four major surgeries in 2017, as a result of sports injuries. When his prescriptions of the highly addictive opioids ran out, he turned to street drugs. His parents say they are calling for an inquiry to find out what systemic changes need to take place to prevent this from happening again.
The request for the coroner’s inquest into the death of Elliot was sent in a letter to the Chief Coroner on June 29 and the Solicitor General on July 3 by Michael R. Scherr, the lawyer representing Elliot’s parents, Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk.
“It is the family’s belief that only with a full and public investigation will similar deaths be prevented. In addition to the prevention of deaths, the overall health and wellness of many children in the province can be improved,” reads the letter.
Elliot’s parents say that current legislation blocked them from helping their son, as it allowed Elliot to request that medical staff withhold all information regarding his high risk behaviour from his parents.
“Kids try to make these decisions for themselves. If they don’t want the help, there is nothing in our legal system that allows us as parents to get them the help they need,” said Staples.
The letter lays out a timeline and the parents’ corresponding concerns.
On Feb. 10, while in care at Victoria General Hospital, Brock Eurchuk says Elliot was found not breathing and unresponsive in his hospital bed. A “code blue” was initiated and Elliot was revived with Naloxone – a medication used to block the effects of opioids. That event was the first clear indication Elliot’s parents had of the severity of his drug use.
On Feb. 12, his parents say they pleaded with the hospital to keep him under care until they had “an effective, well laid out plan to address substance abuse difficulties.”
On Feb. 14, four days after Elliot’s non-responsive episode, Elliot’s parents say he was discharged with no plan or supports in place to address the addiction.
On Feb. 16, his parents admitted Elliot to the hospital with police intervention under section 28 of the Mental Health Act for a 6-7 day stay.
Elliot was released and the physicians, according to his parents, ceased prescribing opioids. Elliot turned to street drugs and died on April 20 of an accidental overdose.
“The circumstances around the health supports (or lack thereof), school situations, institutional engagement with the family, legislative and health institutional policies and practices have yet to be investigated,” states the letter.
The Vancouver Island Health Authority conducted an internal review of the standard of care that Elliot received while at the hospital, producing a report with recommendations that have not yet been released.
“While VIHA has investigated the matter, the results of that investigation are not being made public. VIHA has confirmed that the investigation report will not even be disclosed to the family. This is insufficient,” reads the inquiry request letter.
VIHA clarifies that Section 51 of the BC Evidence Act prohibits them from disclosing information and documentation collected as part of a hospital’s quality of care review. However VIHA confirmed that the Eurchuk family will receive the recommendations that come out of the report. The family is currently awaiting those recommendations.
BC Coroners Service has confirmed they have received the request for a public inquest into the death of Elliot Eurchuk.
“While there are cases that under our legislation are mandatory to go to an inquest, these are mostly police-involved deaths, and would not apply in this case. Thus, it will be up to the Chief Coroner to decide whether this case would benefit from a public inquest,” said Barb McLintock, BC Coroner’s Service.
The Chief Coroner will wait until all the investigative research has been completed, and all the necessary reports – such as autopsy and toxicology– are received. The Chief Coroner will then review the file in detail, and make a decision. The family’s views are taken into account in that review.
“We do always announce publicly all inquests that are scheduled once a time and place are decided upon,” said McLintock.
It is Brock Eurchuk’s hope that the coroner’s inquest will help to advance an amendment to the Safe Care Act prioritizing a parent’s right to access their child’s medical information in circumstances where that child is exhibiting lethal at risk behaviour.