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Child's death was anything but a suicide



Calling the death of Gabriel Myers a ''suicide'' lets his killers off the hook.

The 7-year-old was propelled by a vast conspiracy of abuse and neglect and malpractice. The boy only finished the job on April 15, when he locked himself in the bathroom of his Margate foster home and coiled a shower hose around his neck.

We know that his mother, currently in jail in Ohio, her parental rights severed by the courts, seemed to be preoccupied with other matters, including drugs.


And we know that something awful in his short, sad life had triggered an alarming pathology of aggressive sexual behaviors. This stuff doesn't occur spontaneously. Someone, reportedly an older child, inflicted this kind of learned behavior on a small child. Gabriel was abused.

''Kids act out like this because someone hurt them,'' said Andrea Moore, the longtime child advocate in Broward County and director of Florida's Children First. ``And they are trying to tell us they're hurt.''

Gabriel was a child of obvious and urgent needs. He needed help, attention and therapy. What he got was Lexapro, Zyprexa and Symbyax (a combination of Zyprexa and Prozac). None of the three powerful psychotropic drugs doled out to Gabriel while he was a foster child was approved for children. All three drugs were known to raise the risk of ''suicidal tendencies'' in children.

And Moore points out that none of these anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs had a damn thing to do with repairing Gabriel's underlying problems. ``Give me a break. There is no drug that cures the pain of childhood sexual abuse.''


The drugs, which come with a long and sobering list of possible side effects in children, have been doled out to troublesome kids to make them more manageable. Eli Lilly was fined $1.4 billion -- that's billion with a B -- in March for nefariously marketing the unauthorized use of Zyprexa for children, despite the known risks. A big chunk of those kids, like Gabriel, were foster kids, whose lives by definition were inflicted with the kind of trauma apt to cause unruly behavior.

State officials across the country seemed happy to pay $25 a pill to keep their unruly wards quiet. Eli Lilly also targeted elderly Medicaid patients. The federal lawsuit cited a ``thinly veiled marketing of Zyprexa as an effective chemical restraint for demanding, vulnerable and needy patients.''

Foster kids were essentially guinea pigs in a vast, public-financed drug experiment.

Of course, safeguards supposedly protected foster kids. Florida requires so-called ''informed consent'' before some doctor pumps a kid up with psychotropics. Parents are asked first -- though most foster children would hardly be foster children if it wasn't for lousy decisions by irresponsible parents.

Absent a parent, a judge must give the OK for psychotropics. But the courts and case workers from the Department of Children & Families are all too overwhelmed by caseloads and beset by budget cuts to spend time contesting a doctor's judgment.

''No one was looking out for Gabriel,'' Moore said.

What Gabriel got, instead of real help, were powerful adult drugs laden with dangerous side effects. His cause of death was listed as suicide. It was just another misdiagnosis.

2009 Apr 27