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Warhol Lawyer: Lack of Care Killed Pop Artist

December 5, 1991 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Artist Andy Warhol drowned in his hospital bed, his lungs flooded with too much intravenous fluid pumped into him by a negligent medical staff, a lawyer for his estate charges. But the defense in a lawsuit maintains he died peacefully in his sleep of a heart attack.

″The evidence in this case will show there was never, never, never any fluid overload,″ Glenn Dopf, attorney for two doctors charged with malpractice in the case, said today. ″It’s bunk, baloney and a fantasy. It’s like saying cows have wings and fly.″

The acclaimed pop artist, known for his colorful portraits and paintings of Campbell soup cans, died Feb. 22, 1987, at New York Hospital after routine gall bladder surgery.

The Warhol estate, on behalf of the late artist’s two brothers, is suing the hospital, two doctors, a private duty nurse and several staff interns and nurses for wrongful death.

On Wednesday, Bruce Clark, the lawyer for Warhol’s estate, said doctors, interns, nurses and a private duty nurse failed to note his deteriorating condition in the hours following the surgery.

In the opening argument, Clark told the state Supreme Court jury that the IV fluid, combined with injections of morphine and a girdle placed around his abdomen, slowed Warhol’s already shallow breathing until the artist died.

″The first thing that happens when you’re not getting enough oxygen is you start thrashing around. He went through that thrashing stage, going from peaceful sleep to comatose. The fluid in Andy Warhol’s lungs was drowning him in his bed in New York Hospital,″ he charged.

″Where were they? No doctor looked in on him during the night. ... The orders for this man, in his delicate condition, were to check his vital signs every four hours. If he happens to die, too bad for him,″ he said.

Echoing Dopf, two other defense attorneys today disputed Clark’s contentions.

Bruce Habian, who represents New York Hospital and its staff, said the hospital ″did not cause or contribute or hasten Mr. Warhol’s death. There is no malpractice in a sudden death.″

The third attorney, Arthur Blitz, asserted that a private duty nurse, Mihn Cho, was not involved in Warhol’s death.

Warhol’s brothers, John and Paul Warhola, attended the trial Wednesday.

Warhol - he had deleted the last ″a″ from the family name - was 58 when he died at the Manhattan hospital. The official cause of death was a heart attack; the estate alleges he died because of negligence there. The suit is seeking an unspecified amount in the millions of dollars.

Clark, in his 45-minute opening, also accused the hospital of ″a big mop- up operation″ to protect itself from lawsuits, drawing angry objections from the defendants. Clark suggested records were deliberately lost or altered after Warhol’s death.