Andrews, Loretta. "I Was Juror No. 6, the Lone Dissenter in the Libby Zion Case," letter to the

 

Andrews, Loretta. "I Was Juror No. 6, the Lone Dissenter in the Libby Zion Case," letter to the
editor, New York Times, 21 February 1995, p. A18.

The jury in the Libby Zion case refused to find New York Hospital responsible for the death of
the patient. The jury refused punitive damages to the family and accepted the defense that Libby
Zion had been partly responsible for her own death by taking cocaine and not telling physicians
about it. Here is a letter to the editor from a woman who identifies herself as a dissenter to that
verdict.

"I served as a juror on the Zion v. New York Hospital case and have followed your coverage of
the trial since the verdict. I felt enraged by the views expressed by Dr. R. Gordon Douglas,
physician in chief of New York Hospital, 1982-1990 (letters, Feb. 14), portraying ‘the standards
of New York Hospital second to none.' If this institution represents the best, then it's a sad
commentary on medical care in this country.

"I was juror No. 6, the lone dissenting voice on the verdict. I disagreed with the other jurors on
many aspects of the case, mainly because of my position that, even though the care the hospital
gave was in keeping with accepted medical standards, I found those standards woefully
inadequate and inferior. The evidence led me to believe that New York Hospital failed in its care
of Libby Zion. This jury failed her too.

"I'd never served as a juror before and welcomed the opportunity to participate in the process. I
did not hold any preconceived notions about the parties involved. If truth be told, I'd always felt
that physicians were a noble group bound by high moral and ethical values. I was in for a rude
awakening.

"Libby Zion was admitted as a fever patient at New York Hospital and within eight hours after
being seen by three inexperienced and overworked doctors (two second-year residents and an
intern) she died. Did their inexperience play a part? I believe it did.

"Throughout the trial there were efforts to discredit Ms. Zion's character and blame her for her
own demise. It was argued that cocaine killed Ms. Zion despite the fact that her postmortem
blood and urine were free of the substance. All other evidence presented were either suspect,
inconclusive or not relevant. Cocaine was a red herring.

"Unfortunately, my fellow jurors were swept away by the cocaine theory, and they made further
assumptions that led them to assign partial blame to Libby Zion for her own death. They
presumed a certain life style. That she attended a prestigious school and came from a wealthy
family do not prove she took cocaine. Furthermore, whether she took cocaine is actually
unimportant. What mattered was the quality of care she received.

"The hospital has only admitted to wrongfully administering Demerol, an error that could not be
explained away by ‘standards' of medical practice. However, the abandonment of Libby by the
intern, the ordering of five-point restraints, and the administration of Haldol (a sedative meant for
psychotics that interferes with the body's ability to perspire) - all considered appropriate medical
practice - contributed to her death. This was supported by the findings of the medical examiner.

"Many feel that Sidney Zion has been overzealous in his efforts to pursue justice. We are lucky
to have a Sidney Zion to fight a campaign that can only mean better care for all of us.