Dad Sues Harvard Over Son's Suicide

Harvard Responsible for Death of Student?

The knock on John Edwards' door came at 5 a.m., Nov. 30, 2007. Two police officers entered his home in Wellesley, Mass., sat down on the couch and uttered the unthinkable.

"They said, 'Did you have a son that went to Harvard?' I said yes, and they said, 'He passed away.'"

Edwards' son, also named John, had committed suicide.

"You just can't believe it. You can't believe it then or the next day. You can't believe it a month from then. Every morning you wake up and say it's just not possible," said Edwards, his voice breaking.

Two years later, what Edwards does believe is that negligence by Harvard, the nurse practitioner and the supervising physician at the University Health Center caused his death. And Edwards has filed a lawsuit.

The younger Edwards was just 11 days shy of his 20th birthday. He was training for the Boston marathon, working on stem cell research and seemingly thriving during his sophomore year at his first choice college. Edwards had always been an overachiever, logging perfect SAT scores and being named both president and valedictorian of his class at Wellesley High School.

Still, in June 2007, Edwards told his father that he had been to see a counselor at the Harvard University Health Services, saying that he wanted to be able to study as much as his fellow students.

"I said, 'that's great, anything I can do to be supportive, please let me know.'" Edwards offered to meet with his son's counselor, but was told it wasn't necessary.

Edwards maintains in his lawsuit that a nurse practitioner -- not a physician -- was responsible for writing the multiple prescriptions for his son, although her work was overseen by a physician. Johnny Edwards had been prescribed Adderall, Wellbutrin and Prozac.

"It seems like every time he came in there, the answer was to pull out a prescription pad," said Edwards.

In addition, the suit contends that the drugs his son received "are associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts." Edwards said he is still trying to find out why his son was ever prescribed a drug like Adderall. Adderall is usually prescribed for ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition Johnny Edwards had never been diagnosed with.

In addition, Edwards maintains the Harvard administration has also refused to answer the most basic questions about his son's last days. For example, Edwards wanted to know when his son last used his pass card to get into his labratory. He's still waiting for that answer.

"I wanted to come in and talk to them and find out what happened and share information so that this kind of thing would never happen again. This is an institution of higher learning that sets the standard in our country, if not the world…but they have no interest in any of that," said Edwards.

In response to an inquiry by Harvard released the following statement.

"We understand how difficult it must be for John Edwards' family to cope with such a tragic loss, but we are confident that the care he received at Harvard University Health Services was thorough and appropriate and he was monitored closely by its physicians and allied health specialists."

While he could not comment directly on John Edwards and has not seen any of his medical records, Paul Doering, a professor of pharmacy at the University of Florida, said that taking Adderall, Wellbutrin and Prozac "didn't sound right" and that the activities of these three drugs "tend to work at cross purposes."

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