Photos of Elliot Eurchuk at different stages of his short life. (Keri Coles/Oak Bay News)

Mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of B.C. inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

An inquest that could change the handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis went ahead in Victoria this week.

With a box of tissues on every table, the small University of Victoria’s dispute resolution room was nearly at capacity for the coroner’s inquest into the overdose death of Greater Victoria teenager Elliot Eurchuk, who died at 16 from a drug overdose.

The inquest will review the circumstances leading up to the teen’s death and explore opportunities for the jury to make recommendations to prevent future deaths in similar circumstances.

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

READ ALSO: Oak Bay dad pens letter urging overhaul of youth health laws after son’s fatal overdose

From the outside, the Oak Bay family appeared to have it all: Mother, Rachel Staples is a successful dentist and husband Brock Eurchuk, a businessman. Elliot was one of three healthy boys who liked sports and the outdoors.

But the first day of the coroner’s inquest paints a picture of an imploding family dynamic. Between moving homes, the breakdown of a business partnership, Staples’ breast cancer diagnosis and Elliot’s descent into drug addiction, the family was facing enormous battles.

On Monday morning Staples told the five-person jury how she discovered her son unresponsive in bed at the family’s home on April 20, 2018. That morning, when she noted the alarm on the front door was disabled, she immediately panicked. She went to Elliot’s room and discovered him lying sideways on his bed with his head to the side.

She ran, screaming, to her bedroom closet where she kept naloxone, which she administered into his thigh.

“I knew he was gone,” Staples said through tears. “But when [my husband] came into the room I wanted him to know we tried everything we could to revive him.”

It was too late. Elliot had died with a combination of drugs – including cocaine and fentanyl – in his system.

READ ALSO: Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Staples described how, in the years leading to his death, her “caring, witty, spunky” son changed from an introverted book worm to a withdrawn and secretive teenager, coping with chronic pain and self-medicating with drugs.

After catching her son using a vaporizer, Staples searched his room. She found Ativan, Xanax, Diazepam and Triazolam – drugs she later realized Elliot had stolen from a locked location in her dental office. According to records, she also found Dilaudid (hydromorphone) tablets – or opioid analgesics.

That was before Elliot was prescribed opioid pain-killers following surgeries to his jaw and shoulder and while records presented in the first day of the inquest suggest the teen was using opioids before they were prescribed, Staples believes the 60-days of Dilaudid tablets he was prescribed post-surgery solidified her son’s addiction.

“That’s a huge dose for a young brain,” Staples said. “I don’t know how you could go away not being addicted to opioids after that.”

Staples believes her son was self-medicating to deal with chronic pain and the related sleeplessness – which she believed was causing him a great deal of anxiety, but she says as his substance-use dependency grew, she and her husband Brock were left in the dark.

They attempted to get access to his health records, but were told that Elliot had requested confidentiality. Based on the Infants Act – the 16-year-old’s request was honoured by doctors.

Without confirmation that he was using opioids, Staples was unable to confirm her suspicions of Elliot’s drug use – and Brock, she says, was in adamant denial. Staples said the inability to make decisions about her son’s health care, and even have knowledge of what drugs were in his system, was detrimental to the family’s approach.

In fact their first clear insight into Elliot’s addiction wasn’t until winter, 2018, after he overdosed in the hospital and was saved by Naloxone – a synthetic drug that blocks opiate receptors.

Staples hopes the inquest into her son’s death will change families’ right to information.

“After his death I obtained all of his records from the hospital and reading through those reports… I thought, had one doctor been honest with us, Elliot would still be here,” Staples said. “I don’t know how a child whose brain is washed in opioids and clearly going down the path of substance use can possibly make a rational decision about his own health care.”

As the inquest continues, the jury will hear from family members, friends and neighbours, toxicology and pathology experts as well as members of the Oak Bay and Saanich police departments involved in Elliot’s case.



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bulawka and teammates make history for Kelowna Skating Club at nationals

The club returns from a strong showing at the National Skate Championships

Kelowna’s Fireside Festival nearly sold-out

This year’s festival features the Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Andrew Judah, Little Destroyer and more

Declaration to opt out of speculation tax nears for Central Okanagan residents

Declaration packages will arrive between Jan. 24 and Feb. 21 and must be completed by March 31

Kelowna curlers book ticket to BC Mixed Doubles Championships

Elsie Everst and Adam Cseke look to advance to national stage

PHOTOS: Photographer Nick Clements captures Lake Country’s beauty

Lake Country was ranked as having the fifth-best weather in Canada by Macleans Magazine in 2019

NHL prospects returning to Penticton for Young Stars Classic

After a one-year absence the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic is returning… Continue reading

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

Break in a “poke in the eye” to Shuswap ski club

Larch Hills Nordics looking at security improvements for chalet

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

B.C. teacher suspended for poking student in stomach, pulling another’s ponytail

Teacher also swore in classroom, used Facebook to contact students

Larry Walker Jr. and Sr. keeping expectations low for hall-of-fame induction

Walker needs 75 percent of votes in order to be inducted into Cooperstown

Gene Simmons to launch new Titans of Rock music festival in Grand Forks

The rock legend has partnered with Chuck Varabioff to run Titans of Rock in Grand Forks

Most Read