OPINION: Privacy should come second to kids’ survival

There is much that is startling about the patient care quality review of Squamish’s Steffanie Lawrence’s time at Lions Gate Hospital.

Most shocking to me as a mom, is how powerless her parents were.

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Lawrence, 15, died of a fentanyl overdose on Jan. 22, 2018.

About 24 hours before her death, she was brought into the ER by RCMP as an at-risk runaway.

 From the review, we know staff did as the law required.

Thus, Lawrence’s mom, Brenda Doherty is calling for change.

Medical privacy laws around addicted kids need to be loosened and secure care under the Mental Health Act broadened.

By law in B.C. if a child under 19 is deemed “capable,” her health care is confidential, meaning the parents don’t have to be informed of anything to do with her medical care: including that she is being discharged from hospital.

In Lawrence’s case, she was discharged with a free bus pass to Vancouver because that is where she wanted to go.

This makes no common sense, Doherty argues.

Lawrence’s mom isn’t the only parent sounding the alarm around privacy.

Just months after Lawrence, Elliot Eurchuk, 16 , died of an overdose in Victoria. At a coroner’s inquest in June, his parents testified that privacy laws kept them, too,  from receiving medical information they feel could have helped them, help him.

Most of us overindulge as teens. It is a stupid time of life, after all, when our ability to do things outpaces our understanding of consequences.

The thing with this opioid crisis is, there are no second chances: no stomach-pumped, lecture-from-dad, get-on-with-life happy ending.

According to the latest Coroners Service report, fentanyl and its analogs were detected in more than 80 per cent of overdoses in the first five months of 2019 and 87 per cent  of illicit drug deaths for all of 2018.

In 2012, fentanyl was detected in only four per cent of illicit drug deaths.

Carfentanil, the deadlier cousin of fentanyl, was detected in 102 of 383 of the fentanyl-detected deaths in the first five months of 2019.

It is a different world our children are living in.

Privacy laws are important but should take a back seat to children’s survival.

What Lawrence’s mom also wants in place for kids in B.C. is secure care: involuntary admittance to a treatment facility for a limited period of time until the child can come down from the drugs and think clearly.

There are issues with secure care that need to be worked out. 

Some are rightfully leery about holding children against their will — it smacks of residential school and all sorts of past horrors.

But surely there is a way forward better than we have that let these parents and kids down.

We need to at least have serious conversations about this — before it is too late for another Squamish family.

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