By BOB BAKER, Times Staff Writer
eather O'Rourke, the young actress pulled into a supernatural vacuum in the "Poltergeist" movies, died because the doctors who treated her throughout her childhood failed to diagnose a longstanding obstruction of the small bowel that led to her death on Feb. 1, according to a wrongful-death suit filed Wednesday by a law firm representing the girl's mother.
The 12-year-old actress, who warned, "They're heeere!" in "Poltergeist" and "They're baaack!" in the sequel, died on the operating table at Children's Hospital of San Diego. At the time, hospital officials said, death was attributed to septic shock, which caused cardiac arrest. Officials explained that septic shock was brought on by congenital stenosis of the intestine, a bowel blockage the girl evidently had from birth.
The suit, filed in San Diego Superior Court against Kaiser Foundation Hospital of San Diego and Southern California Permanente Medical Group on behalf of Kathleen O'Rourke Peel, Heather's mother and the administrator of her estate, did not specify damages. She lives in the San Diego County community of Lakeside.
Spokesmen for the Kaiser hospital and the medical group declined to comment on the charges in the lawsuit.
Children's Hospital was not included as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Sanford M. Gage, the family's attorney, said that if the
Kaiser doctors who treated Heather from birth had properly diagnosed the bowel
obstruction, rather than simply prescribing medication for an intestinal
inflammation, they could have performed a simple operation "that would have
The girl exhibited flu symptoms on Jan. 31. The next day her condition worsened and she was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, then by helicopter to Children's, where exploratory bowel surgery was performed.
The "Poltergeist" films, first released in 1982, told of a mid-America family living an idyllic life in the suburbs when their young daughter begins communing with creatures she sees on the television screen.
1988 © the Los Angeles Times
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