Over the weekend I came across a truly heartbreaking story about a child named Rebecca Riley. Rebecca, pictured to the left, was only two and a half years old when she was diagnosed with both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. She was then put on the powerful drug, Clonidine, by her psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji. But instead of helping her, the drug slowly destroyed her internal organs, filled her lungs with fluid, and she eventually died. Now her parents, pictured below, are being charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors say they killed their daughter by regularly giving her drug overdoses, ostensibly to keep her calm and to get her to sleep. As disturbing as the actions of the parents are, I was also equally appalled by the diagnosis and treatment recommended by this psychiatrist. What could have possibly prompted her to diagnose such a young child with such a severe mental disorder without sufficient existing medical research on the matter? How common is this practice? This week, I decided to join the dialogue, regarding this controversial issue, by seeking out reputable blogs on the subject and expressing my opinion.
These are some of the comments I made:
(The Trouble With Spikol)
What a tragic story. Obviously, whether negligent or intentional, these deplorable, unstable, so-called parents are to blame for the death of this innocent child. I am deeply disturbed by their reckless and reprehensible behavior. However, I am almost as equally disturbed with the psychiatrist’s astonishing diagnosis of not just one, but two serious mental disorders in reference to child of less than two and half years of age! To arrive at such a diagnosis, for such an early and crucial period of development, with very limited scientific data known, accompanied with the potential risks of extremely powerful psychotropic drugs, is simply irresponsible and dangerous. Clearly there needs to be much more oversight in the cases of these very young children because this is merely another example in what is becoming an alarming trend of younger and younger children being treated for mental disorders with these highly potent and potentially harmful drugs.
I do not understand how such a tragedy was allowed to take place. Clearly the parents in this story are most culpable for the death of this innocent child, but the blame also partially rests on the presumptuous deeds of this negligent psychiatrist. Rebecca Riley was only two and a half years old when she was diagnosed with such a serious adult mental disorder. That diagnosis was completely irresponsible, in fact I believe it was borderline unethical because there is simply not enough empirical research on how to properly, if possible, diagnose such young children, let alone on how to decide on how much potentially dangerous psychotropic medication they should be on. There is currently a disturbing trend taking place of many children under the age of six being treated in this same exact manner. This is plainly wrong. How many more tragic stories will it take before more oversight and clearer guidelines, for the treatment of our children, are implemented?