Andy Warhol was an American artist, director, editor, producer, and author. He was known for being a monumental figure in the world of art. Though he’s well-known, much of the details around his life remain a mystery, and so does his death. So, how did Andy Warhol die?
Andy Warhol died from cardiac arrhythmia after having surgery to remove his gallbladder, although his death certificate lists “pending further study” under the cause of death section. He passed away in his sleep just days after the operation on 22 February 1987 at the New York Hospital.
For many people, few topics are as fascinating as the topic of death. How did Andy Warhol die? Why did a routine surgery end in an iconic artist’s death? How did his family cope with his sudden and unexpected death? What was his funeral like? Today’s article will answer all of these questions – and more.
How Did Andy Warhol Die?
At 06:32 A.M. on 22 February 1987, Andy Warhol died in his sleep at the New York Hospital at the age of 58. He was in the hospital recovering from a hernia repair and the removal of his gall bladder – a surgery which he delayed for 15 years due to his all-consuming fear of doctors and hospitals. He is suspected to have suffered from iatrophobia (the extreme fear of doctors and medical tests) for several years.
Andy was recovering well from his cholecystectomy, which took place the day before his death, despite his gallbladder being so gangrenous that it fell apart on removal. After three hours in the hospital’s recovery room, Andy was returned to his room and was last checked on by a nurse at 04:00 A.M. When the nurse returned at 05:45 A.M., Andy was “blue and unresponsive.”
After the nurse called for the cardiac arrest team and performed respiratory resuscitation maneuvers, Andy was officially pronounced dead at 06:32 A.M. His death was caused by “ventricular fibrillation” that was brought on by cardiac arrhythmia – but this is not what is listed on his death certificate.
Andy’s death certificate, which was registered by his brother John Warhola a few days after his death, lists “pending further study” under the cause of death section.
The Scandalous Aftermath Of Andy Warhol’s Death
When news broke about Andy’s sudden death, red flags were raised. Why did ventricular fibrillation kill Andy? How did a routine surgery result in the death of a relatively young man? Why was Andy’s medical history – which included a childhood case of Sydenham’s Chorea and a gunshot wound in his forties – seemingly not taken into account?
In the wake of Andy’s death, his brothers, John and Pavol Warhola, requested a post-mortem examination and a few months later, an inquiry into his death was launched. The results of the post-mortem and inquiry were damning.
Investigations revealed that more than twice the volume of fluids required was pumped into his system before a similar operation years before, resulting in overhydration and internal pressure which can be linked to the heart failure that killed him.
In addition, later reports indicate that the nursing staff failed to monitor his condition periodically and neglected to take notes of his urinary output, intravenous fluid intake, as well as other important factors such as blood pressure and pulse rate.
In short, Andy’s care was unsatisfactory, and – though the surgery itself was faultless – the lack of preparation and post-op care related to the surgery led to his death. Andy’s brothers sued New York Hospital and the medical malpractice case (which was settled out of court) resulted in a USD $3,000,000 payout.
Andy Warhol’s Funeral
Andy’s brothers took his body back to his native Pittsburg. An open-coffin wake was held at a funeral home in the area and his coffin featured a solid bronze build with gold-plated rails and plush white upholstery. Andy was wearing a platinum blonde wig and sunglasses with a black suit and a paisley tie. In his hands were a red rose and a book of prayer.
Later that day, in Pittsburgh’s Northside Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church, a funeral liturgy was held in Andy’s honor. It was a well-attended funeral, with celebrities including Liza Minnelli, Calvin Klein, Ruth Ford, and Don Johnson in attendance and Yoko Ono as a speaker.
When the news of his death was announced to the public, 3,000 people attended a memorial in his honor to pay their respects to the artist at the St. Patricks Cathedral in New York on 1 April 1987.