Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, law professor at UBC and former B.C. representative for children and youth, adds her voice to the call for a coroner’s inquest into the death of Elliot Eurchuk. (Submitted)

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, law professor at UBC and former B.C. representative for children and youth, adds her voice to the call for a coroner’s inquest into the death of Elliot Eurchuk. (Submitted)

Call gets louder for coroner’s inquest into B.C. teen’s overdose death

Former B.C. representative for children and youth weighs in with her support

The call just got louder for a coroner’s inquest into the overdose death of an Oak Bay teen as the former B.C. representative for children and youth weighs in with her support.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, now a law professor at UBC, adds her voice to the call after seeing the recommendations and action items that came out of the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s internal quality review conducted into the medical care Elliot Eurchuk received before he died.

Eurchuk, 16, was in and out of the hospital for four major surgeries in 2017, being prescribed highly addictive opioids each time. Elliot developed a drug dependency and when his prescriptions ran out, he turned to street drugs. He overdosed and died at his family’s Oak Bay home on April 20.

RELATED: Parents grieving teen’s overdose death say it started with opioid prescription

The VIHA internal review was recently completed, and while the actual report could not be shared due to Section 51 of the BC Evidence Act which prohibits the disclosure of opinions expressed as part of the review process, VIHA sent the Eurchuk family a letter with the recommendations and actions that came out of the report.

“Following an extensive quality review of the care we provided, we have implemented four actions specific to Elliot’s case to improve care for individuals in our care, particularly youth,” wrote Victoria Schmid, Executive Director of Quality, Safety & Improvement at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

The actions included providing families greater opportunity to formally participate in reporting concerns, even where they may not have authority in care decisions for their loved ones; increasing care professionals’ supports in balancing legal and ethical considerations, and supporting them in the challenges they face with very difficult situations, including the sharing of information with parents or caregivers; developing a patient journey map to better understand the course of care and improve linkages between the Emergency Department, pediatric unit and psychiatry, community supports – system-wide; a learning summary created from the review will be shared provincially with all health authorities to ensure that they are able to make improvements across the BC health system where applicable.

“The review failed to address the issue of consent. It talked about ethical issues, but these are actually medical legal issues around whether a young individual in crisis is capable of consenting,” said Turpel-Lafond.

Other provinces and places, she says, publish a guide to consent.

“And almost always they identify things like mental health and addiction issues. B.C. hasn’t done that yet,” said Turpel-Lafond. “The Infants Act in B.C. has not been updated.”

The Infants Act states that children under 19 years of age may consent to a medical treatment on their own as long as the health care provider is sure that the treatment is in the child’s best interest, and that the child understands the risks and benefits of the treatment.

RELATED: Parents call for change to health laws after Oak Bay teen’s death

“Elliot was in and out of emergency rooms – all kinds of professionals would have had to assess his consent and engage with the family. So what guidance did they use? What guidance are they using today?” said Turpel-Lafond. “The letter to Elliot’s parents didn’t respond to the situation.”

“I think we are in a really important time of change. People are recognizing that mental health and addictions needs work. Some really solid recommendations could really help at this point,” said Turpel-Lafond. “I’m not advocating for young people to not have consent, this is about a specialized field for adolescent mental health and addictions.”

In her capacity as a professor of law at UBC, she has been doing some legal work around the Infants Act.

“I get to see how the law is quite out-of-date in B.C.. It needs really open discussion and review,” said Turpel-Lafond.

“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 Rachel Staples, Elliot’s mother.

While the internal reviews are valuable processes, Turpel-Lafond says, they are not processes for the purpose of public accountability.

“This is why I think the parents are fully within their rights, and we should support them as a community, to request a coroner’s inquest where a jury of community members can hear all of the evidence and consider whether or not some fundamental changes are needed,” said Turpel-Lafond. “Certainly some of the ones that haven’t been addressed in this letter which is pretty vague and addresses some already long-promised things.”

Elliot’s dad Brock Eurchuk expressed disappointment and concern around how the recommendations outlined in the letter would be implemented.

“Recommendations presented in a broad, diffuse manner can be difficult, if not impossible, for sprawling bureaucracies to implement,” said Eurchuk. “All health care providers require clear, effective direction that prioritizes patient care and a desired positive outcome.

“Perhaps my disappointment in the correspondence and the report recommendations resulting from a review of my son’s care is born out of my having a need for an apology and a clear acknowledgement of the health care system’s numerous failures to care for Elliot. An apology from the various institutions that failed Elliot implies a need to react, to respond, to make improvements that will not let another preventable death occur,” said Brock Eurchuk.

Elliot’s parents say they are calling for a coroner’s inquest to find out what systemic changes need to take place to prevent this from happening again.

As the former representative for children and youth, Turpel-Lafond says some of the most effective areas where change was made was when there was a coroner’s inquest.

“We need to examine things to know what happened. The coroner’s inquest is one appropriate forum and I think the request is a reasonable one. I think it could shed some very important light on whether the system can be improved,” said Turpel-Lafond. “I think this is a good use of public resources, and could assist and aid other families.

“Consent in the health care system requires a really close public examination, so I do support the call for a coroner’s inquest,” said Turpel-Lafond.

keri.coles@oakbaynews.com

opioid addictionopioid crisisopioid deaths

Just Posted

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat greets fans outside of the Abbotsford Centre prior to the Canucks exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators in 2019. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
More jobs posted for Abbotsford AHL team

Five new opportunities accepting applicants, Comets forward Lukas Jasek signs in Finland

Singer Ben Cottrill performs during the 2019 Arty Awards at The Reach Gallery Museum, the last time the event was held in person. Cottrill received the award in the performing arts category. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Nominations now open for 2021 Arty Awards

Annual event hosted by Abbotsford Arts Council, with ceremony Sept. 25

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

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