Thursday, 22 November 2007

Where is the Rest of the Story?

Should it be "Punishment for Lori" or "Justice for Megan"? The suicide of Megan Meier was tragic. Unfortunately in their quest to sensationalize and drive up readership, the newspapers and media appear to be blindly pursuing a single element of the story. This tragedy has been oversimplified and is not nearly as cut and dried as it is made out to be. As a result, the mindless rage of the Internet lynch mob has taken a narrow aim at Lori Drew and her family. The mob is determined to exact vengeance by any means: fair or unfair, legal or illegal.

For the sake of discussion let's absolve Megan herself of any responsibility. Teen suicide is unfortunately all too common. Mental illness and suicides are complex subjects. The definition of suicide is to kill oneself. According to the Mental Health Association, "Suicide was the decision of the person who died." There is no doubt that Megan Meier took her own life by hanging herself. No one has alleged that Lori Drew or anyone else tied the belt around Megan's neck. What were the circumstances?

Surprisingly, none of the vigilante sleuths has yet posted Megan Meier's medical records. Presumably she was being treated for Depression and Attention Deficit Disorder. These diagnoses are not without controversy themselves. It has been alleged that many children are being overmedicated and misdiagnosed for these ailments. What treatment was Megan receiving and who were her doctors or therapists? What medications, if any, was she taking and in what dosages?

Coincidentally, two months after Megan's suicide, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that antidepressants double the risk of suicidal behavior in young adults. (Psychiatrists have disputed the FDA report.) Pharmaceutical companies are often accused of promoting their drugs to enrich themselves in collusion with doctors who write prescriptions for their own financial gain.

Why has no one pressed for an investigation into Megan's medical treatment? If Megan was or was not taking antidepressants, there is a chance the medication or lack thereof contributed to her suicide. From a medical perspective, it may have been as much or more of a factor than the emotional distress resulting from her interactions with her imaginary boyfriend.

The possibility of a civil lawsuit is often mentioned and encouraged by the vigilantes. Wouldn't the potential judgment or settlement from a pharmaceutical company or malpractice insurer be higher than anything the family of Lori Drew could possibly pay? Since the same vigilantes are calling for the boycott of the Drew family business and their economic destruction by shunning them from employment, they would be in no position to pay any judgment to the Meier family.

The potential culpability of Megan's own family is steadfastly denied. According to the vigilantes, Christina Meier was a perfect parent. Interestingly, the rules of Myspace forbid 13-year-olds. Therefore, if Megan's mother was constantly monitoring her online activities, why was she allowing her mentally ill daughter to break the very rules put in place for her own safety?

Megan Meier had an imaginary on-line boyfriend. Her mother Christina evidently knew about the relationship and thought it was perfectly acceptable. Naturally, she wouldn't suspect Josh Evans was actually the mother of one of Megan's friends. But, did she never suspect that this unseen person might be not an attractive young boy, but a fat, balding, 50-year-old pedophile in a dirty wifebeater t-shirt? Had Christina Meier never heard of on-line predators who impersonate children?

Did Christina Meier discuss this on-line relationship with Megan's mental health professionals? What advice did Megan's doctors and therapists give regarding her close relationship to person she had never met? Shouldn't Megan's counselors have been aware that Megan was close enough to the imaginary Josh Evans that she was liable to kill herself on his account? Wouldn't it have been prudent to advise Megan or her mother to avoid giving this unseen person such a prominent role in her life that she would end it because of him?

According to the police report, in the minutes prior to her death, Megan and her mother had been "arguing over the computer and possibly a Myspace account". Why was the word "possibly" used in the police report? Which Myspace account--Megan's own, or the imaginary Josh Evans account? How serious was this argument? What were the major points of contention? Were the issues more related to usage of the computer, or one of the accounts, and which account? In the weeks, months, days, and hours before her death, how often did Megan and her mother argue?

None of these questions in any way excuse whatever Lori Drew may have done to cause distress in Megan. There is no excuse for harming in a child, particularly one with a mental illness. However, a careful reading of the police reports shows the story is not quite so neat and tidy as presented by the sensationalist newspaper article and its followers. There are many open questions and different possible interpretation about the actual events.

Most of the lore has been spun out of police reports. The police reports have been misquoted, and one report itself contains errors. On page 2 of the report taken by officer Edwin Lutz on 11/28/2006, Lutz reports "Meier stated she and her husband attempted to contact the Meier family" (sic). This is obviously an error.

Other items in the police reports need clarification: Lori admitted she "instigated and monitored" the account. Who actually created the account? How closely did Lori monitor it and did she see all communications or just some of them? Lori said she, her daughter, and Ashley all read, typed, and monitored the correspondence. Does she mean to use the word "all" as in jointly or severally? That is, did they all monitor all of the communications, or did some monitor some communications and some monitor others? The report states she said "the conversation became sexual for a 13-year-old." What is the definition of "sexually for a 13-year old"? Individual standards and definitions of what is sexual for a 13-year old can vary widely. What some people would consider a PG-rated conversation might shock others, who would rate the same conversation as XXX.

Who are these mysterious "others" who got control of the fake Myspace account and sent messages? If Megan knew that Josh Evans did not exist, why was she so upset over a message sent by a nonexistent person?

Other children at Megan's school claim that it was in fact Lori's daughter who sent most of the hurtful messages. Is it possible that Lori lied to the police and exaggerated her own role in he hoax in order to protect her daughter?

What is the husband of Lori Drew alleged to have done? The vigilantes have been quite adamant in demanding the whole family be shunned, and that her husband not be allowed to earn an honest living to support his family. One commenter gleefully reported he had recently lost his job, ostensibly due to the "shunning." What exactly was Lori's husband supposed to have done to harm Megan Meier? A real life, or in this case real death, situation is never as simple as a newspaper article makes it out to be. Lori did not act appropriately towards another child. Nevertheless, many questions should be answered before she is convicted as a murderer who had principal responsibility for Megan's death. There may even be other parties as much or more culpable.

Bluemerle: The Smoking Gun has It -

Antidepressants a Suicide Risk for Young Adults - Washington Post 14th December 2006


Social Services Supermodel said...

Is it possible that Lori lied to the police and exaggerated her own role in he hoax in order to protect her daughter?

That's an interesting point and not one I had considered... Thanks for the food for thought.

ObiJan said...

As a mother of two girls, I can admit I don't completely monitor my children's "cyber communications". I do however review my daughter's MySpace postings because its "open to the public" to view.

I don't believe parents should invade their children's privacy to the point of monitoring their instant messaging or the text on their cell phones.

To that point, I don't recall my mother sitting on the other end of the phone when I was a teenager, monitoring my conversations with friends. As teenagers, we all socialized and communicated without our parents watching over our shoulders and listening into our conversations every single time we opened out mouths. So, why would I feel the need to invade the privacy of my daughters every time they communicate with friends?

Now before all you readers begin freaking out...let me share the other side of the jagged edge of cyber communications.

I believe that parents need to keep close to their children and have a clear understanding of who our children consider "friends".

I believe all parents have the responsibility to help our children choose friends wisely and to be cautious in developing relationships. We wouldn't allow our children to walk alone at dark or in a "bad part of town", so why do parents allow their children to venture out on the World Wide Web alone?

It saddens my heart about Megan's tragic story. Every parent of a teenager understands the depressions their children experience while they're going thru school. Every child experiences challenges in finding their way in fitting in with the crowd at school and at home during their fragile teenage years.

Lets try to step back and not blame Megan's death on her doctor's or her parents. Hopefully we all will learn from Megan's experience. This young lady was needlessly pushed to the mental breaking point. A child who grew up with Walt Disney Movies, where a girl meets boy and they fall in love forever. Megan developed a fairytale cyber crush and when the ficticious "Josh" broke her heart, she was devistated.

Who is responsible when we read stories like Megan's? We all are! The media is at blame for hyping up situations, bloggers are at blame for their quick judgment without the full evidence, it's the parents fault who don't do their job in communicating and teaching their children about "right from wrong"...allowing our children to venture out alone in the dark and the deadly cyber world we call the Internet. And frankly, as a mother, I would never consider posing as a boy to lure an innocent child into a conversation.

In conclusion, if its true, and Ms Drew is taking the blame of the crime to protect her own daughter, she's not doing her part in teaching her child to make choices wisely in life because there are consequences that follow.

During these next few weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas, lets all try to keep an open mind to this tragedy and keep both families in our preys

Citron said...

In reading so much of this account, and others, I agree completely with Aes. There are several glaring issues which stand out.

Every time a story of this sort comes out, the parents immediately jump in and frantically claim they monitored every second of their children's internet experiences. Frankly, this lie has gone on far enough.

As a parent, even if you stand behind your child every second of every day they're on the computer at home, do you follow them to school, to the library, to their friends' houses where they also use the computer? So many people disregard these avenues of computer use for their children, and yet they are prevalent and available in almost any location in the United States.

When "Josh" became cruel to Megan, why didn't her mother sit her down and explain the facts of life to her daughter? After all, she monitored every minute of her child's computer use, right? Therefore she had to have seen what "Josh" was writing to her daughter. Even discounting the fact that her daughter would commit suicide (as no mother really wants to admit that to herself), if she'd seen those messages she would have known they were going to cause her daughter great emotional pain. Why didn't she do something to ease that pain? Or did she even see the messages? Perhaps her "monitoring" wasn't as strict as she likes to pretend.

None of this pretends Lori isn't responsible for her actions. As an adult, she should have had the emotional maturity to realize what she was doing was wrong. However, equal blame must lie with Megan's mother. Had she monitored her child's internet activity as she claimed, this could have been nipped in the bud long before it came to harm for Megan.