In December 2006, a four-year-old girl, Rebecca Jeanne Riley, lost her life after months of repeated dr*ug overdose administered by her parents.
Riley was just two years old when a psychiatrist diagnosed her with children’s bipolar disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Though her behavior was normal for her age, her parents ensured she got the diagnosis so they would be cashing out on the monthly Social Security Disability Income they received.
Rebecca Jeanne Riley was born in Springfield, Massachusetts to Michael and Carolyn Riley on April 11, 2002. The couple already had two children, Gerard and Kaitlynne, before Riley was born.
Many people in the Riley family had mental health issues. Michael was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and “intermittent rage disorder” that was not treated, and he was accused of attacking and hurting someone in 1998. Carolyn took medicine for her headaches and also used Paxil for her depression and anxiety. Gerard and Kaitlynne saw a child psychiatrist named Kayoko Kifuji, who treated them for bipolar disorder and ADHD in children.
Kaitlynne was only two years old when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in April 2003, and she was given valproate, a dr*ug that stabilizes mood, even though a social worker did not agree with Kaitlynne’s diagnosis and said that her behavior was normal for a toddler.
The couple was unemployed and resided in Section 8 housing(where tenants spend only 30 percent of their income on rent, while the rest of the rent is paid with federal money) receiving Social Security Disability Income every month. Both Gerard and Kaitlynne qualified for Supplemental Security Income payments, amounting to approximately $2,300 per month. Overall, the family received a monthly disability income estimated to be around $2,700.
According to relatives and Kifuji, it was observed that Riley’s parents did not follow the prescribed medication regimen. They reportedly referred to mood stabilizers and clonidine as “happy medicine” and “sleep medicine,” respectively.
When Riley was two years old, her parents informed Dr. Kifuji (who was employed at the Tufts-New England Medical Center at the time) on August 27, 2004, that their daughter displayed hyperactive behavior, had difficulty sleeping, and showed aggression towards her older siblings. Kifuji briefly assessed Riley, gave her a diagnosis of ADHD, and prescribed a single tablet of clonidine for her.
The Medication That Ruined Her
Immediately after the diagnosis was given to Riley, her parents applied for another, Supplemental Security Income. However, this was not approved.
Less than one month after the diagnosis was made, Riley’s mother, Carolyn started altering her dosage, giving her two tablets of clonidine without the consent of the pediatrician, Dr. Kifuji. But when they finally told Dr. Kifuji, she did not kick against the dosage increase.
In May 2005, Riley’s parents reported to Kifuji that she was experiencing mood swings and frequent episodes of crying. Based on Riley’s behavior during office visits and her family history, Kifuji diagnosed her with pediatric bipolar disorder. As a treatment, Riley was prescribed the mood stabilizer valproate. Kifuji later clarified that her diagnosis was influenced by Riley’s behavior during appointments and her family background.
In January 2006, Riley started attending preschool, and the school soon became worried about her condition. They observed signs of overmedication, such as a hand tremor and her appearing lethargic and unsteady on her feet. Her shaking was so severe that she required assistance from an adult to navigate the stairs or exit the school bus.