The parents of 16-year-old Elliot Eurchuk believe their son would be alive today if the health care system had allowed them to control his medications.
Eurchuk died of an accidental overdose on Friday.
“We’re still in emotional shock, and the loss is staggering,” father Brock Eurchuk said.
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Like many kids his age, Eurchuk’s love of sports led to some serious injuries that put him in the operating room.
In order to manage his pain, doctors prescribed powerful opioids, drugs his parents were never told about.
“I begged his physician, and I know his physician wanted to be able to share the information with me, but I think he felt trapped,” mother Rachel Staples said.
Staples said her son underwent four surgical procedures last year and was prescribed opioids each time.
She said her son returned to hospital in February where he was prescribed opioids to manage pain that was related to a severe infection.
Staples believes her son started buying street drugs, which were marketed as pharmaceutical-grade pills, in the five-month period between two surgeries when he experienced chronic and acute pain.
In British Columbia, children under 19 may consent to a medical treatment on their own under certain conditions, according to the Infants Act.
The health care provider must be sure that the treatment is in the child’s best interest, and the child must understand the potential risks and benefits.
It’s up to the health care provider to assess and ensure the child’s understanding of the treatment.
Staples said his son “had blocked us from knowing what was being prescribed to him.”
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His parents said the first time they knew anything was wrong was when Elliot was found unresponsive and needed Narcan (naloxone).
“I think there’s a very good chance that Elliot would be alive today if from the get-go we were completely informed,” Brock said.
The BC Coroners Service has confirmed that it is investigating the accidental overdose death.
Parents across B.C. dealing with the opioid epidemic are urging the government to take some of the decision-making capabilities out of the hands of kids who are not equipped to make them.
The government won’t commit to concrete answers but is looking at changes that would give parents more rights.
“Certainly we will be looking at all of the legislation that potentially affects children and youth and adults when they are struggling with addictions,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said.
Eurchuk’s parents hope that by speaking out, other families won’t have to live through a similar tragedy.
“If they have mental health issues and or drug addiction issues, they are incapable of making proper, sound, reasonable decisions and it needs to be recognized,” Staples said.
A memorial event for Elliot will be held later in the week.
- With files from The Canadian Press