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Autopsy Planned on Teen

Family and friends prepare memorial services for victim of botched transplant.

February 24, 2003|From Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — Medical examiners will determine what ultimately killed a teenager who survived a botched heart-lung transplant but died two days after receiving a second set of organs.

An autopsy was planned today on Jesica Santillan, the state medical examiner's office said. An attorney for the 17-year-old's family said an autopsy was appropriate.

"We just want to make sure we know what the cause of death was," attorney Kurt Dixon said Sunday. "If there's going to be legal action down the road, you want to have a definite cause of death. You don't want to speculate about that."

Family and friends were planning memorial services for the teenager Tuesday, one public and another private, said Mack Mahoney, a family friend and Jesica's chief benefactor. He said he believed the family, who was in seclusion, would return Jesica's body to the family's home country of Mexico for burial.

Jesica, whose own heart had a deformity that kept her lungs from getting oxygen into her blood, died Saturday.

She never regained consciousness after her first heart-lung transplant, which her body rejected because the organs didn't match her blood type. Doctors at Duke University Medical Center in Durham said they didn't check the compatibility before the surgery began Feb. 7.

By the time a matching set of organs was found and placed in her body Thursday, she was near death.

The new organs performed well, but Jesica's brain had swelled and was bleeding Friday. She was declared dead after more than a day without brain activity.

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