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Writer Sues Hospital Over Daughter’s Death

August 26, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ Writer Sidney Zion is suing New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center for allegedly giving his teen-aged daughter a pain reliever which proved fatal when combined with an antidepressant she was taking.

Zion, 51, said Monday he also has asked the Manhattan district attorney’s office to prosecute the case on charges of criminally negligent homicide. Barbara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said prosecutors are looking into the matter.

″I’m not interested in the money,″ Zion said. ″I’m interested in seeing something happen here ... My goal is to break the madness going on. I sent my daughter to them with a fever and she came back in a box.″

Zion - a former New York Times reporter, New York Post columnist, author of ″Read All About It″ and former assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey - is suing his family physican, Dr. Raymond Sherman; Luise Weinstein, a Cornell intern who has since become a resident; and the medical center.

The author is charging the defendants with negligence, Sherman for allegedly failing to go to the hospital and Weinstein for allegedly ordering a fatal dose of Demerol, an analgesic pain reliever and sedative.

Zion said his daughter, Libby, 18, had been taking Nardil, prescribed by another doctor to treat ″slight depression.″

The Physican’s Desk Reference, a standard reference handbook, states that Demerol should not be used in people taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors, like Nardil. Mixing such drugs ″has occasionally precipitated unpredictable, severe and occasional fatal reactions in patients who have received such agents (inhibitors) within 14 days,″ the book says.

Zion said he and his wife Elsa brought their daughter into the hospital in March 1984 suffering from a 101-degree fever and earache.

″They knew about it (the Nardil),″ Zion said. ″It was on the (admitting) records.″

Jim Fabian, an attorney for New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center who is representing the doctors and the medical center, said, ″We have been advised not to comment because the case is in active litigation.″

Zion said he filed the civil suit in June ″in case the criminal case did not get anywhere.″ He waited to discuss it until an article about the case was published in the September issue of American Lawyer magazine.