Sunday, June 03, 2007

Rebecca Riley, 4, Casualty of Psychiatric “Treatment”



The Boston Globe reports on the drug-induced death of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley who had been “diagnosed” as suffering from both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder at the tender age of 28 months. She was prescribed three powerful psychotropic drugs whose toxic effects have never been shown to be safe or appropriate. Her two older siblings were likewise “diagnosed” and prescribed the same drug regimen by a licensed child psychiatrist at Tufts New England Medical Center.

In the final months of Rebecca Riley's life, a school nurse said the little girl was so weak she was like a "floppy doll."The pre-school principal had to help Rebecca off the bus because she was shaking so badly.

Should children so young be prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs meant for adults?


Colm Smyth said...

Hi Coral,

Your post today is truly shocking, a tragedy for the family and I hope a cause for deep concern among the medical profession in the US.

How can anyone believe they understand the mind of a 2.5 year old child, let alone to prescribe two psychoactive drugs and one for blood pressure?

A child's growing metabolism will respond to sugar or caffeine (say in a Coke) by producing "hyperactivity"!

There are so many positive ways to help someone who may be predisposed to mental illness; medication should by far not be the first option, and certainly not for a pre-teen, let alone a toddler.

However many people find benefit in different forms of medication; we have to make an informed decision about the quality of life that some treatments offer versus the risks. In the last years, my life partner developed asthma and now takes a fairly high dosage of tablet steroids, but it means that she can not only walk up a slight incline, but run, enjoy sports and work too. They help her to be the person she truly is, a (tirelessly!) active individual.

As to doctors; many are talented, but there are also some who are desensitised by long practice of their profession, and others who are simply incompetent.

It falls to us as adult persons, as partners and as parents to ensure that we don't accept medical advice blindly. Doctors are human and make mistakes, so we have to take responsibility and consider their recommendations as educated advice, not a command.

But I believe we need the medical profession to take more responsibility for monitoring itself. Everyone benefits from positive guidance; the medical student who becomes an intern and then a fully qualified doctor does not suddenly cease the need to learn or to get feedback.

As I write this, I realise it may seem I am sitting on the fence; that isn't true, but I've learned that the grass is about as green on both sides; it mostly depends on us to make sure it gets mowed and watered!

All the best,

Colm Smyth said...

I just read a little more on the link from your post. It appears the parents may have greater responsibility for their child's death, making the tragedy more complex.

This doesn't lead me to change a word on my previous comment, but it does show that doctors have to be careful in diagnosing children and try to ensure that the parent(s) are providing balanced and accurate information, and in the worst case, that they are acting in the best interests of the child.

Ah such a sad way to come to the end of my day! The only way I can look at this positively is to think some more about how I can help my siblings and friends because sometimes all it needs is a listening ear, a kind word and a little common sense.

It's hard to change ourselves let alone the world, but I believe we can take small steps to empower the people that we meet, and that means more than or a stack of philosophy books.

CoralPoetry said...

Hi, Colm Smyth

Thank you for calling at my blog and contributing your opinion and comments.

Yes, there was plenty of evidence to suggest the parents were at fault for administering these prescribed drugs to this child. But there were ample witnesses in authority who noted the fragility of this little girl, but said nothing. Did they not think to call the Police immediately, despite the parents’ protestations that there were good reasons for the little girl’s apparent weakness? The doctor was an accomplice in this death by his/her willingness to provide the tools of destruction. He could have replaced half the drugs with dummy sugar pills as this was a clear case of treating the mother’s foibles and had nothing to do with the diagnosis of the child. It could be argued that the mother would have bought over-the-counter drugs, anyway, and administered it to the child. The result would have been the same.