Dr. Arthur Zitrin, Bioethicist and Death Penalty Foe, Dies at 101


Arthur Zitrin, a leading bioethicist who sought to discipline doctors who administered lethal injections to condemned prisoners, died on Saturday at his home in Great Neck, N.Y. He was 101.

The cause was chronic lung disease complicated by a stroke, according to his son, Richard, a lawyer and a professor of legal ethics at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

In 2005, after a state board dismissed his complaint against an individual doctor who had performed an execution, Dr. Zitrin filed a lawsuit demanding that the Georgia Composite State Board of Medical Examiners punish any doctors who help carry out capital punishment.

The Georgia courts dismissed his lawsuit, arguing in 2007 that Dr. Zitrin was not an aggrieved plaintiff. But the issue, which developed only when states sought more humane methods of applying the death penalty, percolated.

Arthur Zitrin was born in Brooklyn on April 10, 1918, to William, a house painter, and Lillian (Elbaum) Zitrin, a homemaker, both Eastern European immigrants

After graduating from New Utrecht High School, he earned a bachelor of science degree from City College of New York in 1938, and a master’s and doctor of medicine degree from New York University in 1941 and 1945. He served as a captain in the Army Medical Corps after World War II. In 1953 he became a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

He married Dr. Charlotte Marker, who died in 2013. In addition to their son, he is survived by their daughter, Elizabeth, who is the president of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

An N.Y.U. School of Medicine faculty member since 1949, Dr. Zitrin became a full professor of psychiatry in 1967. From 1955 to 1968, he was director of psychiatry at Bellevue. (He was also responsible for salvaging the remnants of four Corinthian columns from the Medical College at Cornell University, which was built in 1900. The columns from the building, which was razed in 1968, now rest in a courtyard of the former Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital.)

Dr. Zitrin was director of psychiatry of the New York City Department of Hospitals from 1962 to 1964.

Collaborating with Daniel Klugherz, a childhood friend, he also made documentary films, including several on social issues that focused on women and on pioneering doctors.

In his more than four decades as a bioethicist, he witnessed the emergence of a growing number of ethical issues, as people lived longer, science advanced and social mores changed. One issue people were confronting more was how long to prolong the life of a terminally ill patient.



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