One month after their teen son died of an accidental overdose, a pair of Oak Bay parents are still waiting for answers to how the province plans to avoid such a death from happening again.
In an open letter sent Tuesday to Premier Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix, Brock Eurchuk calls on the province to immediately amend the Health Care Act to enable primary caregivers access to their youth’s medical records, test results and treatment plans.
“A legislative mechanism and health care policy that enables at risk youth to block their critical health care information from their parents will continue to result in tragic, preventable adolescent deaths,” writes Eurchuk.
This repeated call comes after his son Elliot, 16, died at his Oak Bay home April 20 after battling drug dependency due to extensive surgeries. Elliot was prescribed opioids for four major surgeries in 2017, including two for a fractured jaw and two shoulder reconstructions, his parents said.
When Elliot’s prescriptions of the highly addictive opioids ran out, he turned to street drugs for relief. He tried to hide the addiction from his parents, and was successful for awhile as he was shielded by the law.
The Infants Act currently 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.
“That kind of policy basically knocks parents to their knees in their efforts to help their children. In our son’s case it ultimately led to his death because we had no control over his medical direction,” said Elliot’s mom, Rachel Staples.
In response to Elliot’s family speaking out for change in the days following his death, Dix told Black Press Media on April 22, that time was needed for an investigation into the matter.
“I admire their courage in speaking out and expressing their frustrations but I think we have to take time to allow the evidence to come forward and be assessed independently,” he said at the time.
In his letter, Eurchuk references Dix’s statements and asks “how many kids need to die while Adrian Dix and his government maintain their position?”
“With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear to me, had my wife and I had continuous, timely access to Elliot’s medical records his death would likely not have occurred,” writes Eurchuk. “It is also clear to me – until this legislation is amended – additional, preventable youth deaths will occur.”
Speaking to press after an unrelated conference in Vancouver on May.24, Dix said the Island Health review of Elliot’s case is ongoing, and that the Eurchuk family continues to be briefed.
“It is an incredibly tragic case. My colleague Judy Darcy has met with the family at some length,” said Dix. “We are absolutely listening to the families and everyone else about lessons to be learned from this case. But we are listening to both the family and the health authorities to make sure that if changes are required in the way that we treat people, that they are the right changes. These are complicated issues.”
The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, created in 2017 to help address the opioid crisis, confirmed that BC Coroners Service and Island Health are continuing to investigate Elliot’s death.
Leslie McBain, a mother who also lost her son to an opioid overdose, has called for the same policy changes. She helped to roll out a document called Close to Home, advocating for, among other things, families to be included in treatment.
“We believe most families and most parents are the best toolbox for the health care provider. Who knows the child better than their parents?” said McBain.
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