Cerebral Treated a 17-Year-Old Without His Parents’ Consent. They Found Out the Day He Died
Telehealth startup Cerebral had software that could verify customer IDs but didn’t use it to check birth dates and other details, a policy that resulted in some minors being treated without parental consent, according to former employees and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
An internal memo reviewed by the Journal described the software ID check as an impediment to customer retention when Cerebral was trying to quickly enroll tens of thousands of customers for mental-health treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company used software to capture selfies of patients but relied on clinicians to verify details such as 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 said in a statement. It added that it has tested different ways to verify IDs in its registration process, but has always met legal requirements.
Anthony Kroll signed up for Cerebral in December and uploaded his Missouri intermediate driver’s license showing he was 17. Missouri law prohibits clinicians from providing mental-health treatment to people under 18 without parental consent.
Anthony told a Cerebral clinician he had suicidal thoughts, and she prescribed him an antidepressant that carries a warning label for adolescents, according to medical records reviewed by the Journal. Cerebral didn’t notify his family.
His parents, Wendi and Todd Kroll, said they didn’t know their son was suicidal or was seeking mental-health treatment. “I had no idea he was even on [medication] until the day he died,” Mrs. Kroll said, adding that she found the pill bottle at their home a few hours before her son died by suicide.