Friday, July 2, 1999
Tyrell Dueck dies
A Martensville boy who fought the Saskatchewan government for the right to refuse cancer treatment has died.
The boy had been in St. Paul's palliative care for about a week before he died, said Joseph Bourgault, the St. Brieux man who has spearheaded fund-raising efforts for the boy's family.
"I understand the family got great co-operation and respect from the doctors at St. Paul's Hospital. He was struggling and they were managing (his pain) for him," Bourgault said Thursday.
Becky Hildebrandt, Tyrell's aunt, said the family was upset and did not want to talk publicly.
"We just need some time to deal with this," she told The Canadian Press.
Tyrell was at the centre of a five-month battle with his doctors, Social Services and the courts over control of his medical care for a deadly bone cancer in his leg. The battle ended abruptly in March when doctors in Saskatoon found his cancer had spread.
On Thursday, Social Services spokesperson Bill Carney expressed his condolences.
"I don't know how much more we can say at this time. We sure hoped it would turn out differently," he said.
Tyrell and his family began their fight with the province shortly after he hurt his leg around his 13th birthday in early October. Within a month, he was diagnosed with cancer.
Tyrell's parents, Tim and Yvonne, refused chemotherapy and amputation to treat the cancer, opting instead to seek herbal and other alternative remedies.
Social Services took the family to court to take legal charge of his medical care.
A judge handed control of Tyrell's care to the government late last year. After two rounds of chemotherapy Tyrell himself refused treatment, saying he wanted to try alternative medicine.
Social Services took the case to court again, saying that without chemotherapy and surgery the boy would die.
Queen's Bench Justice Allisen Rothery ruled March 18 that Tyrell did not have the mental capacity to refuse chemotherapy and surgery because he's deeply influenced by his father, whom she ruled had given his son misinformation. Rothery ordered Tyrell to take conventional treatment without his parents.
A few days later doctors found the cancer had spread from Tyrell's leg to his lungs. Doctors said his odds of surviving one year after treatment had diminished from 65 per cent to less than 15 per cent. Doctors and Social Services decided not to try to force treatment on the boy.
The Duecks went to the American Biologics hospital in Tijuana, Mexico for $5,900-a-week alternative treatment.
The treatments included herbs, vitamins and laetrile, an extract of apricot pits.
The clinic announced that Tyrell's lungs were cancer free about 10 days after he began treatment. The clinic said tests done at the reputable Scripps Memorial Hospital near San Diego confirmed its diagnosis. The hospital never confirmed the claims by American Biologics.
After three weeks of treatment at the centre, Tyrell, Tim and Yvonne returned home April 20.
During an interview at the Saskatoon airport, Tyrell's father said since beginning the treatment in Mexico, Tyrell had experienced a sharp drop-off in pain, a reduction in the size of the tumour and a huge boost in morale.
Speaking about the new diagnosis from American Biologics, Tim Dueck said: "I guess you could view it two ways. You could approach it from the religious side and say he was healed. Or you could say (lung cancer) was never there in the first place."
American Biologics officials could not be reached Thursday.
The trip cost about $50,000. Bourgault said the family still faces around $15,000 in bills connected to the boy's treatment.
Bourgault said he is still convinced the Duecks did the right thing.
"I don't consider this a failure. There are no guarantees in life. In the end, Tyrell's freedom was respected," he said.
Bourgault said Dueck's funeral is scheduled to take place Saturday at 2 p.m. at Gruenthal Church.