Local News

Duke, Santillan Family Reach Settlement

Posted June 26, 2004

— A settlement has been reached between Duke University Health System and the family of Jesica Santillan; however, details of the agreement will not be made public.

Jesica Santillan, 17, received a heart and lungs from a donor with a different blood type and never recovered. She died Feb. 22 after a second transplant tried to override the damage of the first.

In February 2003, Dr. James Jaggers, the surgeon who did the transplant, went public on "60 Minutes."

"I take responsibility for those errors, and I take responsibility for the entire team," Jaggers said.

William J. Fulkerson, M.D., chief executive officer of Duke University Hospital, released the following statement Friday:

"Duke University Health System and the family of Jesica Santillan have reached a settlement. Under order of the court, the agreement is sealed and neither Duke University and its representatives nor Ms. Santillan and hers are permitted to discuss the specifics of the agreement. We believe the agreement the court has approved is fair and equitable for both the Santillan family and for Duke.

"We mourn the death of Jesica Santillan and remain committed to learning from this tragedy to benefit others. Duke University Health System has established additional patient-safety programs to ensure that the procedural errors that occurred in this case cannot be repeated. Equally important, the safety of the nation's organ transplant system has been significantly strengthened. All who will receive life-saving organ transplants in the future will benefit from these important changes."

WRAL spoke with Magdalena Santillan, Jesica's mother, late Friday afternoon. She said the entire family is relieved to put the incident behind them. In a statement from Jesica's Hope Chest, a foundation for critically ill children, Santillan considers the organization to be her daughter's legacy.

Investigators spent many hours at Duke after the transplant mistake. Hospital leaders say the mistake has significantly strengthened the safety of the entire nation's organ transplant system.

A review at Duke forced procedural changes. One update is better documentation of medical orders. A later inspection found other problems at the hospital with surgical and nursing services and infection control. Duke says it has since corrected the issues.

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