One Psychiatric Diagnosis for Each Year


It's not clear what role Michael and Carolyn Riley played in the death of their 4-year-old daughter, Rebecca, who overdosed on a combination of psychiatric drugs in December. I don't know whether the criminal charges against them are justified. But surely they bear some culpability for going along with the psychiatrist who confidently diagnosed Rebecca at the age of 2 with "attention deficit disorder" and "bipolar disorder," prescribing the drugs that ultimately killed her: "Seroquel, an antipsychotic drug; Depakote, an equally powerful mood medication; and Clonidine, a blood pressure drug often prescribed to calm children." Let's accept, for the sake of argument, that both attention deficit disorder and bipolar disorder are bona fide brain diseases caused by chemical imbalances that can be corrected with drugs. How can anyone possibly tell, by observing and interviewing a toddler, that she is suffering from these conditions? Because she has a short attention span and goes through mood swings? Tufts-New England Medical Center, where Rebecca was treated, is backing the doctor who made these diagnoses, declaring the care she received "appropriate and within responsible professional standards."