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U.S. Rites for Girl in Botched Organ Surgery

March 05, 2003|From Associated Press

LOUISBURG, N.C. — Jesica Santillan, the Mexican teenager who died Feb. 22 after a bungled heart-lung transplant, was buried in a rural North Carolina cemetery Tuesday.

The 17-year-old girl's small white coffin was slipped into a mausoleum wall and covered with a slab of pink granite as her parents watched. On a sunny, springlike day, about 100 mourners gathered at the small graveyard east of Louisburg for the outdoor service.

Plans to bury Jesica in Mexico were abandoned because there was no guarantee her illegal immigrant parents would be allowed to return to the United States afterward.

In an operation Feb. 7, Jesica was mistakenly given organs of the wrong blood type. Her body rejected them and a subsequent matching transplant came too late to save her. She died at Duke University Medical Center.

Some have questioned whether the second transplant was proper and whether the organs could have saved the life of another patient. Others questioned why an illegal immigrant received such high-intensity medical care.

Lawyers for the girl's family say they haven't decided whether to sue the hospital.

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