The StarPhoenix

Clinic breaks silence
  • Tijuana doctor agreed amputation only way to save Tyrell Dueck's life
    By Leslie Perreaux
    of The StarPhoenix

    Tyrell Dueck's alternative caregivers agreed in the end with his Saskatoon doctors that leg amputation was the only route available to save the boy's life.

    The conclusion from an American Biologics doctor from Mexico came eight months after the course was recommended by the Saskatoon Cancer Centre to stop the spread of the 13-year-old's bone cancer in his leg. Dueck died June 30 at St. Paul's Hospital - less than six weeks after the alternative treatment centre's recommendation. He did not follow the advice of either centre.

    National Post Photo
    Dr. Rodrigo Rodriguez
    Dr. Rodrigo Rodriguez, medical director of American Biologics, said Dueck responded well to his clinic's vitamin, laetrile and enzyme treatment, which concluded in April. But a doctor from the clinic visited the boy at his Martensville home two weeks later and was alarmed by the size of the tumour and the persistent bleeding it caused.

    "There was a point when it was no longer a matter of choosing," Rodriguez said Tuesday. "When you see a tumour that won't stop bleeding under any circumstances and has the potential to kill the patient, you're going to have to go ahead and do it.

    "(Amputation) was probably one of the last recommendations we did, that if the bleeding was not going to stop, there won't be any options. Sometimes you are forced to make bad choices."

    Dueck and his family fought with the Saskatchewan government for more than six months for the right to attend American Biologics hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, and avoid amputation and chemotherapy.

    The boy and his parents, Tim and Yvonne, hoped prayer and alternative treatment would eliminate the need for the devastating course proposed by doctors here.

    Chris Boychuk, the lawyer for the Saskatoon Cancer Clinic, said clinic staff have greeted the boy's death with sadness.

    "It's such a sad outcome. The only regret is that there was a chance if we had been allowed to do something for this child right away. There was a good chance," he said.

    But Rodriguez said earlier treatment, either alternative or conventional, probably would not have saved Dueck's life.

    "This tumour grew very fast from the beginning. From the time of the onset of the tumour to the time of the whole discussion was very few months and it was already huge."

    Rodriguez said Tyrell's condition turned for the worse very quickly for the same reason.

    "Tumours can grow in days, they don't need weeks. That's why you call them malignant," he said. "They take their own course and they can be very aggressive, particularly in young children."

    Rodriguez said the clinic had no way of knowing its treatments would be futile before the Duecks spent more than $50,000 on them.

    Dueck was allowed by the government to seek alternative treatment in Mexico after doctors in Saskatoon concluded the cancer had spread to his lungs.

    Rodriguez maintained Tuesday that his clinic, and a second opinion obtained from a Scripps Hospital in California, found no spread to the boy's lungs.

    "I don't know where (Saskatoon doctors) saw it, to tell you the truth. I'm not saying it was a mistake, but we didn't see it, we didn't find it, and we sent the case to California to double check."

    Scripps Hospitals refused to confirm the diagnosis due to rules of patient-doctor confidentiality. Rodriguez said the written report could only be released by the family, which has refused such requests.

    Boychuk said the cancer centre here is skeptical about the diagnoses from south of the border. He said neither American Biologics nor Scripps requested film from previous tests done in Saskatoon on the boy.

    "Scripps is a very good facility. We would be very surprised if a qualified radiologist would give an unqualified diagnosis without our film. He might say he can't see anything, but he would always say he needs to compare."

    While acknowledging no one from the clinic had seen Tyrell since May or seen any reports on his death, Rodriguez suspects Tyrell died of anemia from the bleeding in his tumour, not the spread to his lungs.

    Rodriguez said Dueck should have easily been able to receive conventional care and the options sought by his parents in Saskatoon.

    "I've said all along that the only problem between the doctors and the family of Tyrell was one of public relations," Rodriguez said. "The father wanted alternative therapy, he wanted vitamins, he wanted general support to the kid, he wanted prayer. He wanted a lot of very simple things that could have been provided in Canada.

    "I don't think they ever listened to each other, they could never sit down and agree on anything."

    Boychuk said all options were fully discussed with the family several times since Tyrell was diagnosed in the late fall, including the pursuit of some alternative medicine in conjunction with conventional treatment.

    "We never had anything but an outright refusal to proceed," Boychuk said.

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