B.C. Coroners Service to hold inquest into Oak Bay teen’s overdose death

The B.C. Coroners Service will hold an inquest into the illicit-drug overdose death of Oak Bay teen Elliot Cleveland Eurchuk beginning June 17.

Elliot, 16, was found in his bedroom on April 20, 2018, dead from a combination of cocaine, fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine.

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The inquest has been called to review the circumstances of his death and for a jury to make recommendations that may prevent deaths in similar circumstances, the coroners service said Tuesday.

“I see it as being a very painful process for me and [wife] Rachel and my family, but I see it as an opportunity for positive change,” said Brock Eurchuk, Elliot’s father.

Elliot’s mother, Rachel Staples, said she was happy there would be an inquest, but disappointed it took so long.

“I will be there every second,” she said.

Presiding coroner Michael Egilson, chairman of the Child Death Review Unit for Office of the Chief Coroner, and a five-person jury will hear from witnesses under oath to determine the facts surrounding the death.

Egilson is a former employee of the B.C. Children’s Commission and has worked in youth and family services throughout his career. Egilson said Tuesday he cannot comment on the inquest at this time.

The inquest is scheduled for at least a week but could go two weeks, said Andy Watson, a spokesman for the coroners service.

The inquest is a fact-finding, not fault-finding, probe.

Staples, a dentist, and Eurchuk, a businessman, have been lobbying for an inquest since their son’s death.

They say painkillers, including fentanyl prescribed before and after surgery for sports-related injuries, led to an addiction that their son fed with street drugs.

“He was 15 years old with a developing brain and no one warned him or us of what this would do to his brain,” Staples said. “No one counselled our son about the likelihood of addiction.”

The Oak Bay teen’s death occurred in the midst of an ongoing opioid epidemic. The B.C. Coroners Service says 1,489 people in B.C. died of illicit-drug overdoses last year, about the same number of deaths were seen in 2017.

An average of four people a day die of illicit-drug overdoses, more than from suicides, homicides and vehicle deaths combined.

Elliot’s parents have argued that a probe is needed to prevent future deaths of this kind.

They said they asked physicians to prescribe alternatives to highly addictive opioids for their son after surgery.

“Prescribing laws need to be reviewed,” Staples said. “Why are we still dispensing copious amounts of these deadly pills for small surgical procedures?”

Staples also wants wait times for diagnostic tests and surgery improved. Elliot, in agonizing pain, waited five months for a diagnostic MRI for a sports-related injury and more months for corrective surgery, she said.

Later, Elliot’s parents begged physicians to give them access to their son’s medical information, including lab test results that would have confirmed he was taking street drugs.

They want an overhaul of the B.C. Infants Act, which says anyone under the age of 19 can consent to their own medical care if a health-care provider agrees with the treatment and assesses the patient as competent to understand the risks and benefits.

Under the Infants Act, Elliot was able to dictate his own prescribed drug regime and to bar his parents from seeing his medical record and test results.

“This is the big piece — getting parents proper information,” Staples said. “Kids with mental-health and addiction issues should not be solely responsible for their own health care.”

Elliot was expelled from school rather than counselled for an addiction and discharged from hospital despite having overdosed in his bed there days earlier.

“There’s not a day, not an hour that goes by that I don’t review the decisions I made, the road I took, question what if I had done this, or that,” Eurchuk said.

“Ultimately, this failure is one that I will be living with the rest of my life.”

The public inquest starts at 9:30 a.m. on June 17 in the Dispute Resolution Room in the University of Victoria’s Fraser Building.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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