In Massachusetts, Boston-area psychiatrist Dr. Kayoko Kifuji is being sued for the wrongful death of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley. Rebecca died in 2006 following an overdose of psychiatric drugs.
The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Rebecca was mostly prescribed drugs over the phone, using “slipshod diagnosis.”
Kifuji had diagnosed Rebecca with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. She prescribed Seroquel, Clonidine, and Depakote.
The official cause of Rebecca’s death was prescription drug overdose, or “intoxication due to the combined effects” of clonidine, valproic acid (Depakote), dextromethorphan, and chlorpheniramin.” Her body was found in her Hull home on December 13, 2006.
Six weeks prior to Rebecca’s death, a nurse at her preschool in Weymouth told Kifuji that she believed the girl was taking too much medication. She described her as a “floppy doll” that was always tired. The doctor examined Rebecca but did not lower her prescription dosage.
A court-appointed guardian is representing Rebecca’s estate. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Rebecca’s pain and suffering, her wrongful death, and the loss suffered by her 7-year-old sister and 13-year-old brothers, who are her estate’s beneficiaries. The two of them currently reside in foster homes.
Rebecca’s parents, Michael and Carolyn Riley, have been charged with her prescription overdose death. Her parents, awaiting their criminal trial in jail, have pled not guilty to the charges.
Last year, Kifuji agreed to stop seeing patients while the State Board of Registration in Medicine investigates the case. She told police that she was very concerned when she found out that Carolyn had increased Rebecca’s nightly dose of clonidine.
Psychiatrist takes paid leave after death of girl, Boston.com, February 7, 2008