The estate of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley is suing Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, who diagnosed Rebecca with bipolar disorder and ADHD and prescribed the drug used to kill her in 2006. Michael and Carolyn Riley have both been convicted of murder for her death.
A lawsuit against the psychiatrist who prescribed the drug used to kill 4-year-old Rebecca Riley is moving forward now that her parents have been convicted of murder in her death.
The district attorney considered charging Dr. Kayoko Kifuji in the case, but no indictment was returned against her.
But the legal spotlight is shifting to Kifuji, who practices at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and to a lawsuit brought against her by Rebecca’s estate.
Benjamin Novotny, the Boston attorney representing the estate, said Monday that a Suffolk County Superior Court judge will hold a final pretrial session “in the next couple of months,” and could schedule a trial date then.
It’s not clear, however, if the case will be heard by the end of this year. If Rebecca’s estate wins the lawsuit, Michael and Carolyn Riley wouldn’t get a share of the money.
Kifuji’s role in the case outraged parents and law enforcement officials alike in the wake of the girl’s death at the home in Hull where the Rileys were living on Dec. 13, 2006.
In a rare instance of agreement, prosecutors and Michael Riley’s defense attorney shared harsh words for Kifuji’s actions during and after the couple’s trials.
Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz said she shouldn’t be able to practice in Massachusetts “or anywhere else.” Defense attorney John Darrell told the jury Kifuji was “the most irresponsible doctor you may ever hear.”
Rebecca’s parents, Carolyn and Michael Riley, were tried separately this year, and Kifuji testified at both trials under a grant of immunity. Carolyn Riley was convicted of second-degree murder in February, Michael Riley of first-degree murder on Friday.
During testimony in Michael Riley’s trial, Kifuji said she has no second thoughts about diagnosing Rebecca Riley with bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when the girl was 2.
Novotny said that matches a statement Kifuji made during a deposition this past December in the civil lawsuit.
“She’s still defending her conduct, with no admission of liability,” Novotny said.
Kifuji’s attorney, Bruce Singal, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Kifuji testified she made her diagnosis largely on the basis of Carolyn Riley’s reports of her daughter’s behavior. She prescribed clonidine for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Depakote for the bipolar disorder, as she had for Michael and Carolyn Riley’s two older children.
Clonidine is a blood pressure drug, Depakote a seizure medication. As was noted during both Riley trials, neither drug has had clinical trials for use with children.
During both parents’ trials, a toxicologist said Rebecca Riley had three times the amount of clonidine in her system as she would have if she’d taken her entire daily dose all at once.
Kifuji voluntarily gave up her medical license when the Rileys were charged with Rebecca’s death in February 2007. A state court-appointed administrator filed the civil suit in 2008, while a Plymouth County grand jury investigated Kifuji for possible criminal wrongdoing.
Last year Kifuji was cleared by the grand jury, then by a state medical board. She regained her medical license and returned to practice at Tufts last fall.
Patriot Ledger writer Lane Lambert may be reached at email@example.com.