Local News

Duke Officials, Santillan Family At Odds Over Discussion About Organ Donation

Posted February 25, 2003

— Wednesday, the life of Jesica Santillan will be remembered at a memorial service in Louisburg that will be televised on the WRAL NewsChannel beginning at 5 p.m.

Tuesday, doctors at Duke University Hospital talked about the care they gave Jesica, the transplant mistake that led to her death and why her organs were not donated.

According to the Santillan family, Duke failed Jesica. The family also claimed that hospital officials told them Jesica's organs were too badly damaged and couldn't be used again.

Duke doctors countered that claim on Tuesday, saying Carolina Donor Services, not the doctors, makes that determination.

"Dr. (Eva) Grayck and I were in the room for the discussion in which we asked the family if they would be willing to talk to the donor agency," Dr. Karen Frush said. "We did not comment at all on any organ."

The family said no one came back to get an answer about donating Jesica's corneas.

Jesica died Saturday after her second heart-lung transplant. She needed a second transplant because doctors discovered during her first transplant that she received organs that were not compatible with her blood type.

Hospital officials claim they never said Jesica's organs could not be transplanted. Doctors said that, after Jesica was declared brain dead, Carolina Donor Services asked to talk to the family, but the family said no. They said after Jesica was taken off the respirator, the family asked about organ donation but showed no more interest.

"I had asked (Jesica's mother) multiple times," Dr. Grayck said. "I couldn't ask her again, and she made no indication that her initial refusal was any different, so I did not ask her an additional time."

Duke doctors say several translators were in the room every time they talked to the family.

Also on Tuesday, Dr. William Fulkerson, chief executive officer of Duke University Hospital, said the hospital shares the blame with Dr. James Jaggers for the transplant mistake. Jaggers was the surgeon in both of Jesica's procedures.

Dr. Jaggers said the mistake of not confirming the organ blood type ahead of the first transplant fell squarely on his shoulders.

"I take complete responsibility for the team," he said.

Said Fulkerson: "There were systems not in place, both at Duke and, we think, outside of Duke, that could have prevented and intercepted this mistake before it led to the tragic circumstance."

Dr. Jaggers is under review, and hospital officials would not say Tuesday if he's still working there.

The hospital needs to have systems in place in order to assist our doctors (and) provide the best care," Fulkerson said. "Systems need to be in place outside the hospital."

Attorneys for the Santillan family claim Duke still has not handed over medical records to the family. The hospital was supposed to turn over the records at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, but attorneys said they did not have them.

Wednesday's memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. at Norris Theatre on the campus of Louisburg College. The public is invited.

Jesica will be buried in Mexico.


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