Baby killing doctor suit settled for 2 and ½ million dollars

The headline and the implication is a little more subdued in the Boston Globe, Tufts settles suit against doctor in girl’s death for $2.5m.

The money will be distributed to the remaining living siblings of Rebecca Riley who was 4 years old when she was found dead on December 13, 2006. Early in 2010, Carolyn Riley, Rebecca’s mother was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 15 years. Michael Riley, Rebecca’s father, was sentenced for first degree murder to life without the possibility of parole.

Andrew Meyer, who works with [lawyer Benjamin] Novotny, said the settlement did not contain any admission of wrongdoing on the part of [Dr. Kayoko] Kifuji, but he said the doctor’s lawyers’ decision to settle for $2.5 million, which Meyer said is the maximum paid out by Kifuji’s malpractice policy, suggests culpability. He said the hospital self-insures many of its doctors, including Kifuji.

Officials chose to accept the settlement in order to spare the Rebecca’s siblings the anquish of another trial.

After the girl’s death her psychiatrist entered into a voluntary agreement the Board of Registration of Medicine to stop practicing. 2 years later, with no grand jury indictment and the licensing board conducting an inquery, the doctor has been seeing patients for the past year.

Still, many in the medical and legal community questioned why Kifuji was not held criminally accountable. When Rebecca died, Kifuji was the psychiatrist for all three Riley children, diagnosing each with ADHD and bipolar illness and prescribing similar mood-altering drugs.

According to testimony during the trials, Kifuji had been fooled by the parents into believing the children had serious psychiatric illnesses, in part so the parents could collect federal disability checks for the youngsters’ alleged behavioral and mental disorders. Many jurors questioned why Kifuji, who had indications about the parents’ dangerous conduct, did not do more to protect the Riley children.

When you’ve got 2 parents with 3 children, each of whom have been given serious “mental illness” diagnostic tags, and put on dangerous pharmaceutical products, well, the parents don’t supply diagnostic labels and prescribe the pills, the doctor does that. Again, 3 kids 2 parents 1 doctor. It’s doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that the doctor should have been held to be much more culpable than she was. If those alarms that should have gone off actually went off, Rebecca Riley might still be alive today. The parents would not have been allowed to milk the federal disability payment system for cash if this doctor had seen what was right before her eyes. In my opinion, she has to be at least as guilty of this crime as were they.

Kifuji, who agreed to testify only after being granted immunity from prosecution, said in court that she was following diagnostic criteria and treatment protocols followed by many well-established child psychiatrists. She said she had no idea that the parents were giving extra medication to their children.

When doctors are held accountable, and actually receive jail time for over-diagnosing “mental disorders” and over-prescribing psychiatric drugs, we will be getting somewhere as far as mental health treatment and social justice are concerned. The same is to be said about drug company executives who fraudulently sell drugs for purposes for which they have not been approved. Million dollar law suits are easily covered by billion dollar companies. Fatal mistakes are easily swept under the rug when negligent doctors are covered by malpractice insurance.

Recently the Boston Globe did an investigative reporting series on the disability payments for parents of children with mostly “mental illness” labels. The Rebecca Riley case proves just why such investigative journalism is important. It also illustrates why it is so wrong to essientially lay all the blame on the parents for something they couldn’t do without the implicit complicity of a doctor.

5 Responses

  1. Once again a psychiatrist was held above the law. At least somebody got something out of her in the civil phase.

    Also, this is so insane:

    …the final settlement included language requiring Tufts to set up educational and outreach programs to help provide more mental health services for children…

    You mean so more children can end up like Rebecca Riley? When does this lunacy stop?

    • I had similar thoughts about the end of this article that I wasn’t sure how to articulate, Marlboro. The criminal court system seems to have set the whole weight of the thing squarely on the back of the parents. There is some question as to the psychiatrist’s role, too, but that was about it. (You and I both know that psychiatrists are getting away with murder. Parents don’t prescribe psychiatric drugs, psychiatrists prescribe drugs.) We don’t know at all whether what Tufts University is doing is going to be beneficial or detrimental. I would like to think these “educational and outreach programs” are going to be beneficial, but so much of the mental health/illness system is just plain bad and a general waste. I have to harbor many doubts. So much of the literature today, and some of the practice, is actually directed at exasperating rather than alleviating what has become an epidemic. The mental health/illness system wasn’t on trial here, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been on trial.

      • I think you’re being far too generous about these “educational and outreach programs”. Knowing what we do about psychiatry, I would have to say they’ll simply be marketing programs for psychiatrists to push their drugs.

        The article pointed out that in the Rebecca Riley case, the parents were simply getting their children diagnosed with these psychiatric diseases, which can really neither be proven nor disproved, and then using their children as a source of income.

        I think the general public needs to be better informed about this gaming of the system by, let’s face it, lazy parents and craven psychiatrists. When the public does become better informed and realizes that this money is coming out of their pockets, maybe something will be done about the general system.

  2. I would have to say they’ll simply be marketing programs for psychiatrists to push their drugs.

    True, but what got to me was this series the Boston Globe did on families receiving disability payments for their children. It’s not simply about drug companies selling drugs, it’s also about families paying for those drugs through Social Security disability payments. If you’ve got a poor family then, and this often means troubled people throughout, they’re going to look at disability payments almost as an entitlement. Having a child characterized as “mentally ill” is a way of getting, or increasing, disability payments. In some instances, the parents could be celebrating a child’s diagnosis because of the money it brought in. How convenient to have the psychiatrist pin a label on a kid, and dish out the drugs. A paycheck comes with them. Michael Riley had 3 kids given psychiatric labels, receiving psychiatric drugs, and increasing his nanny state welfare check. I don’t want to blame poor people, but the whole system from top to bottom has it’s weaknesses, and that’s one of them.

    I think, in large measure, whatever education and outreach programs Tufts Medical Center might provide will often be a way the relatively well paid staff members have of dealing with families in poverty. I’ve always thought of people in mental health services as some of the most prejudiced people around for this very reason.

  3. […] Baby killing doctor suit settled for 2 and ½ million dollars. Andrew Meyer, who works with [Benjamin] Novotny, said the settlement did not contain any admission of wrongdoing on the part of [Dr Kayoko] Kifuji, but he said the doctor's lawyers' decision to settle for $2.5 million, which Meyer said . […]

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