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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Psychiatrist takes paid leave after death of girl

Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, the psychiatrist who treated Rebecca Riley, a 4-year-old Hull girl whose parents have been charged with giving her a fatal overdose of prescription drugs, agreed today to immediately stop seeing patients while the state investigates her role in the case.

The Board of Registration in Medicine accepted the voluntary agreement from Kifuji, who works at Tufts-New England Medical Center. Such agreements "are one tool available to the Board to ensure the safety of the public during the pendency of an investigation," the board said in a statement. "Voluntary agreements are appreciated by the Board as a sign of cooperation on the part of a physician."

Nancy Achin Audesse, the board's executive director, said after the board's meeting: "Clearly this case and the attention it has garnered is very frightening to patients and to the public, and it raises a lot of questions. A voluntary agreement gives us time to gather information and decide what we need to do next."

Tufts-NEMC issued a statement saying that Kifuji is on a paid leave of absence.

The voluntary agreement does not detail any specific allegations against Kifuji. It states that it "is considered to be a disciplinary action" but that Kifuji does not waive her right to contest any allegations that may be brought against her by the board. "Nothing contained in this Agreement shall be construed as an admission or acknowledgement by me as to wrongdoing of any kind," Kifuji states in the document.

Kifuji began treating Riley in August 2004 and diagnosed her with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. She prescribed the medications, including clonidine, a blood pressure drug for adults that is also sometimes given to children to reduce aggressiveness and help them sleep. Prosecutors allege that Riley's parents, Michael and Carolyn Riley, intentionally killed their daughter in December by giving her a clonidine overdose.

In an interview today, Kifuji's attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., said, "Dr. Kifuji's diagnosis of Rebecca, her prescribing of medication and the care provided was 100 percent appropriate under the circumstances."

Kifuji has been licensed to practice in Massachusetts since 1999. She is a 1981 graduate of Tokyo Women's Medical College and is board certified in pediatrics and psychiatry, including a subspecialty certification in child & adolescent psychiatry, acccording to the board of registration.

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