CBS Reports on What Killed Rebecca Riley

We covered the issue of the tragic death of Rebecca Riley back in February of 2007. Now Katie Couric has investigated for 60 Minutes. From the story:

On Dec. 13, 2006, police responded to a 911 call and found a little girl lying dead on the floor next to her parents’ bed. The autopsy revealed that she had died from an overdose of psychiatric drugs. Rebecca Riley was being treated for bipolar disorder, or manic depression, even though she was just four years old.

If that sounds unusual to you, it’s not. As Katie Couric reports, until recently the disorder was believed to emerge only in adults. Now, it is estimated that there are nearly one million children diagnosed as bipolar, making it more common than autism and diabetes combined. And to treat it, doctors are administering some medications that have yet to be approved for children. In the case of Rebecca Riley, that cocktail of medications proved fatal and now her parents have been charged with her murder. [full text]

The article goes on to interview Dr. Joseph Biederman, an expert on pediatric bipolar disorder. More on Dr. Joseph Biederman has been helpfully compiled in this post at the blog Furious Seasons.

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One response

  1. It doesn’t even take an anti-psych nut (extremists railing against extremists, ignoring polite moderation utterly) to identify a major issue in treating children with psychotropic medications—beyond the potential for pathologizing what may be nothing more than a difficult developmental phase.

    As an adult with bipolar disorder, I know well that psychiatry is a trial-and-error system that absolutely requires the collaborative input of the patient. It took several years, half a dozen regimens, and a hospitalization to get me stabilized on a workable cocktail—i.e., one that not only keeps the extremes in check but does so without attendant rage problems, excessive somnolence, or flattened affect. I’ve been undermedicated, overmedicated, and flat-out wrongly medicated, and in all cases I was the only person who could possibly identify the scope and nature of the problems inherent to the regimen. How on earth is a child supposed to communicate such nuances: Yes, doctor, the suicidal depression has lifted, but I find that I’m no longer interested in blocks or Barbies or friends or even breathing; can we tweak it a bit?

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