Telehealth startup allegedly treated minors without parents' consent

Telehealth startup Cerebral has been accused of prescribing minors prescriptions without the consent of their parents, The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 29. 

Cerebral has a software that verified customers' IDs, but the software didn't identify patients' ages, according to former employees and documents reviewed by the Journal. Clinicians were allegedly supposed to verify patient ages during 30-minute video chats. 

"We have provided much-needed care to hundreds of thousands of patients, many of whom would not have had access to critical mental-health support without Cerebral's telemental health services," Cerebral told the Journal

Cerebral also said it tested different ways to verify IDs in its registration process and has always met legal requirements.

A 17-year-old from Missouri, Anthony Kroll, signed up for Cerebral and went through the ID software, which showed he was a minor. 

He proceeded to meet with a clinician, stating that he had suicidal thoughts, and she prescribed him an antidepressant that had a warning label for adolescents, according to medical records reviewed by the Journal. Mr. Kroll later died by suicide.

Mr. Kroll's parents said they did not know he was seeking mental health treatment nor were they made aware that he was taking an antidepressant. 

Missouri law prohibits clinicians from providing mental health treatment to people under 18 without parental consent. 

Cerebral said Mr. Krol misrepresented his age. 

The company later identified 17 minors who enrolled in their services between May 2021 and April 2022, including Mr. Krol. 

According to the documents and employees, the company enrolled people with bipolar disorder, suicidal thoughts and other serious conditions, giving some patients appointments without properly vetting their IDs. Cerebral has said it no longer prescribes most controlled substances to new patients, according to the Journal.

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