Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New York Journalist Sidney Zion Dies at 75

New York journalist Sidney Zion dies
BY Jane H. Furse

Sidney Zion, a crusading journalist who turned the tragic loss of his daughter into a cause célèbre that led to far-reaching reforms in how hospitals train young doctors, died Sunday. He was 75.

He'd spent his last days being treated for cancer under hospice care in Brooklyn, said his son Jed Zion.

"He certainly did it his way," his son said. "I just want to remember him as somebody who lived better than anybody I know, who never did anything he didn't want to do.

"It's sad, but he had a damn good run."

Zion's four decades in journalism gave him a high profile at every major publication in New York, including the Daily News, The New York Times, New York magazine and the New York Post.

"Sid was a New York character like they don't make them anymore. He thought, wrote and lived with verve," said Arthur Browne, editor of the Daily News editorial pages, where Zion's column appeared weekly for 15 years.

Perhaps the story with the greatest impact was also the most personal for Zion.

On March 5, 1984, his 18-year-old daughter, Libby, died less than eight hours after being admitted to New York Hospital with a raging fever.

Outraged at reports that a sleep-deprived medical resident had treated her with a drug that may have worsened her condition, the grieving father initially pressed unsuccessfully for criminal charges against doctors and the hospital.

Later, a grand jury issued a report highly critical of the hospital, which led to reforms that included better medical supervision in emergency rooms and prohibited residents from working 24 hours straight or more than 80 hours a week.

Zion, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Yale Law School, began his career as a trial lawyer.

In 1961, he became an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey before turning to journalism.

In addition to hundreds of columns, many of which were published in three collections, he was also the author of "The Autobiography of Roy Cohn," "Loyalty and Betrayal: The Story of the American Mob" and a novel, "Markers."

Zion is survived by his sons, Adam of Brooklyn and Jed of Manhattan, and two grandchildren.

His wife, Elsa, a city official and former publishing executive, died in 2005.

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