A lawsuit against Harvard provides rare detail on the issues involving a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder from a student-health department.
Johnny Edwards, who had just finished his freshman year, received his diagnosis in June 2007 and was prescribed Adderall after a single examination at Harvard University Health Services. Mr. Edwards killed himself six months later after he was also prescribed antidepressant medications at the clinic.
Mr. Edwards’s father, John, contends, among other accusations, that his son had never had A.D.H.D. and that Harvard’s original diagnostic procedure, and subsequent prescriptions for Adderall, did not meet medical standards.
Harvard attests that Johnny Edwards’s care was “thorough and appropriate,” according to a university statement. The trial is scheduled to begin next February in Massachusetts Superior Court.
In pretrial testimony, Marianne Cannon, the clinical nurse specialist who initially evaluated Mr. Edwards, detailed why she made the diagnosis and wrote Adderall prescriptions, both legal under Massachusetts law. (Some states require doctors to perform those roles.)Ms. Cannon said Mr. Edwards visited the student health center in June 2007 and claimed to have trouble concentrating — telling her, she recalled, “I can’t study like I would like to, as much as my friends.”
During her hour with Mr. Edwards, Ms. Cannon said, she noted that beyond his general inability to focus and need for frequent study breaks, he had received two minor traffic citations, further suggesting impulsiveness and a poor attention span.
She said Mr. Edwards’s taste for the energy drink Red Bull indicated a need for help concentrating. She said he asserted that his father “may have had” A.D.H.D., which Ms. Cannon took as another sign because, she testified, “80 percent of the time, the previous generation will have it.”
Ms. Cannon said she did not ask to speak with Mr. Edwards’s family or friends about his history of symptoms or whether his father had attention problems. She did not probe whether Johnny Edwards’s issues with concentration appeared before the age of 7, which is required to meet the American Psychological Association’s definition of A.D.H.D. She confirmed that Mr. Edwards never met with or spoke with a doctor during his care at the clinic.
The diagnosis of A.D.H.D. has no hard and fast rules and relies solely on a clinician’s appraisal. Although some experts require that neuropsychological testing and conversations with family members supplement the patient’s reports of problems, the diagnosis can be, and occasionally is, made in five minutes.
While some colleges are tightening their regulations for how or whether their student-health personnel can handle A.D.H.D., Harvard Student Health Services does not have a specific policy, a university spokesman said.
Harvard asserts that Mr. Edwards’s diagnosis and medication were in full accord with accepted medical protocol, that he “was monitored closely by its physicians and allied health specialists.” Complaints filed by Mr. Edwards’s father to three state health agencies were dismissed.
By ALAN SCHWARZ
Read the original story: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/01/us/harvard-suit-highlights-adhd-medication-problems.html
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Parents Sue Harvard after Son Misdiagnosed with ADHD Commits Suicide