The Patriot Ledger
Lane Lambert
Jan 25, 2011

BOSTON — The attorney for Rebecca Riley’s estate said Tufts Medical Center psychiatrist Dr. Kayoko Kifuji has settled a civil lawsuit for $2.5 million.

The Suffolk Superior Court settlement comes almost a year after the 4-year-old Hull girl’s parents, Michael and Carolyn Riley, were convicted of murdering her in December 2006 with an overdose of Clonidine, which Kifjui had prescribed.

Rebecca was 2 when Kifuji diagnosed her with bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Rebecca was given Clonidine for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and Depakote for the bipolar condition.

Benjamin Novotny of the Boston law firm Lubin & Meyer confirmed the settlement Monday. The amount is the limit for Kifuji’s malpractice insurance with Tufts, where she continues to practice.
The settlement has been put into trusts for Rebecca’s older brother and sister, for education and other expenses. Their parents’ convictions keep them from claiming a share of the money.
“This is the best possible result,” Novotny said. “We got everything we could.”

In a prepared statement Monday night, Tufts said the interests of Rebecca’s brother and sister are best served by the settlement, rather than a lengthy civil trial that would again subject all those who cared about Rebecca to “the painful details brought forth during the criminal trials.”
Novotny said Tufts has also agreed to start an awareness program, so young doctors know the dangers of over-prescribing such drugs. Tufts declined comment on that but said the hospital will be looking for ways to expand education programs for caregivers who treat “psychiatrically ill children in troubled homes.”

Michael Riley was convicted of first-degree murder and Carolyn Riley of second-degree murder. The case revived a nationwide controversy over whether such drugs should be prescribed for children as young as Rebecca.

Kifuji drew widespread outrage for her role with the family, especially after she escaped indictment by a Plymouth County grand jury and regained her medical license.

Rebecca was found dead and lightly clad on the floor of her parents’ bedroom on Dec. 13, 2006. Plymouth County prosecutors said the Rileys deliberately overdosed Rebecca because they were unable to secure federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Rebecca, as they had for their other two children.

Trial testimony showed that Kifuji relied mainly on Carolyn Riley’s reports of Rebecca’s behavior, while numerous witnesses said they’d raised concerns about the effects of the drugs right up to the night Rebecca died.

Kifuji testified under immunity at the Rileys’ separate trials, and proved to be a cautious, frustrating witness for prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.

Kifuji voluntarily gave up her medical license when the Rileys were charged in February 2007. A court administrator filed the civil lawsuit for Rebecca’ estate in 2008.

Kifuji was cleared of criminal charges by a grand jury in the summer of 2009. A couple of months later a state medical board said she could practice again. She regained her medical license and returned to Tufts. The civil case didn’t move forward until the Riley trials were completed in March, 2010.

Novotny said the lawsuit was settled in late December but that the money was placed into Rebecca’s brother and sister’s trusts in the last few days. Her brother is reportedly in foster care, while her sister may soon be adopted.

He said the lawsuit appeared doubtful after Kifuji was cleared and the Rileys were convicted, but was settled in part because of public outcry and questions about the medical care Rebecca Riley got.

Lane Lambert may be reached at
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