British Columbia

Parents of Victoria teen who died of overdose renew calls for coroner's inquest

After receiving the results of an internal review by the Island Health Authority in a letter, Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk are renewing their calls this week for a coroner’s inquest into the death of their son, Elliot.

Island Health says numerous reforms in the works for treating youth with addictions

Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk received a letter from island Health outlining the results of an internal review into the death of their son son, Elliot. Staples, and the Eurchuks say they aren't satisfied by that review and are once again calling for a coroner's inquest. (Gregor Craigie/CBC)

The parents of Elliot Eurchuk, a 15-year-old Victoria boy who died of an opioid overdose during the spring, say the investigation into their son's death has left them disappointed.

After receiving the results of an internal review by the Island Health Authority in a letter, Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk are renewing their calls this week for a coroner's inquest.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond — a law professor at UBC and the former B.C. representative for children and youth — is assisting the family's legal team and adding her voice to its call.

Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk look through photos of their son, Elliot, ahead of an interview in May. (Gregor Craigie/CBC)

"I found the letter fell really short," Turpel-Lafond told All Points West host Jason D'Souza.

"I certainly support the family in calling for an inquest to properly investigate ... Elliot's situation so we can learn from what actually did happen to him."

Turpel-Lafond explained one of the problems Staples and Eurchuk faced was difficulty in getting information about Elliot as he went through the medical system due to privacy laws.

She says work needs to be done on balancing the privacy rights of underage patients with the needs of parents to know how their children are faring in the medical system.

"Can we improve those issues, so that the wedge is not driven between the parents and the child?" she asked. "Perhaps the child's death could have been prevented had there been better support for that family."

Island Health outlines reforms

Island Health's vice president of medicine, Dr. Richard Crow, said the health authority is making numerous changes when it comes to treating youth with addictions.

Services are being expanded at a specialized youth clinic. New specialist physicians and psychiatrists are being recruited. Detox and withdrawal beds for youth will be opened, and multi-disciplinary teams for youth with addictions will be formed.

The issue of sharing information with parents, though, is "challenging."

"We have legislation that we have to follow in terms of  privacy and then the rights of individuals regarding sharing information," Crow explained. "We're enhancing awareness and interpretation of existing legislation to try to maximize the ability to share information with families and care providers."

Turpel-Lafond wants to see a clearer commitment to reform.

"The response ... doesn't really say 'we're going to look at consent and really take it seriously for kids that have complex needs,'" Turpel-Lafond said. "It just said, you know, 'we're going to think about it.' So I don't think it was an adequate response to the situation."

Coroner's inquest decision 'premature'

It's unclear whether or not an inquest into Elliot's death will be held.

A spokesperson for the B.C. Coroner's Service said it was "premature" at this point for the chief coroner to make a decision.

"She will wait until all the investigative research has been completed, and all the necessary reports (such as autopsy and toxicology) are received," the spokesperson wrote in an email.

Elliot Eurchuk died of an accidental overdose in April. (Gregor Craigie/CBC)

"The Chief Coroner will then review the file in detail and make a decision. The family's views are certainly taken into account in that review."

A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth — who has the power to order an inquest — said the minister would not order one before the chief coroner made a decision.

Listen to the full interview with Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond:

With files from Deborah Wilson and CBC Radio One's All Points West