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Defense in Liability Suits Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021

Jesica Santillan died at the age 17 as a result of a fatal doctoral mistake. The girl was in a terribly problematic condition as her heart did not provide enough blood to her lungs. The specialists from the Duke University Hospital where Jesica was during the last days of her life stressed the necessity of transplantation of both heart and lungs of the girl and took responsibility for the operation (Duke Medicine News and Communications, 2003). United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) provided transplants and everything seemed to be developing properly, but at the end of the surgery it turned out that the blood type of the donor organs did not match Jesica’s blood type. The girl experienced coma, a second attempt of heart and lung transplantation, and was pronounced dead after two weeks of suffering (Duke Medicine News and Communications, 2003). The cause of Jesica’s demise is the doctoral mistake. And the only question that remains is “How can a medical worker whose oath guides him/her against doing any harm to a patient be so irresponsible and fail to test transplants for blood compatibility?”

The answer to this question is simple and plain: a medical worker cannot allow him/herself to make such mistakes. If he/she makes them, then such a worker is dangerous for other patients and cannot keep working in health care. There are both medical and legal evidence of the fact that it was the mistake, although unintentional one but this does not make the grief of Jesica’s family easier, of the medical workers in the Duke University Hospital. Presenting this case for civil action all that is desired is the public scrutiny of the fact that the majority of heart and lung transplantation surgeries are successful in the United States of America, so there is no other explanation to the tragedy but the mistake of the doctors.

According to the data by the American Heart Association (2009), 87.5% of male patients and 85.5% of females live at least one year after the transplantation surgery on their hearts and lungs. Two- and three-year surviving rates are lower but can still cherish hope in the hearts of the patients’ family’s as the average of 78% and 70% people survive heart and lung transplantation surgeries for two or more years respectively (American Heart Association, 2009). Jesica lived for 15 days after such a surgery, although her case was one of the thousands of surgeries that are successfully completed around the United States.

Officials of Duke University Hospital claim Jesica’s condition was exceptionally difficult and they did everything they could to save the girl (Duke Medicine News and Communications, 2003). But they failed to do one basic thing; they failed to check if the organs designated to save Jesica’s life could at all be transplanted to her without the risk of fatal consequences (Judson, Harrison, and Hicks, 2002). As a result, Jesica’s family lost their loved daughter, and they surely would never believe that Duke University Hospital had done everything as they actually failed to do the most elementary things. It is also difficult to understand how Duke University Hospital might try to take the blame for Jesica’s death from them by saying that the blood test results arrived at the surgery room but it was too late as the transplantation were already completed. Evidently, it is not an excuse in this case, but rather one more fact to prove the Hospital’s incompetence and careless attitude towards the case (Judson, Harrison, and Hicks, 2002).

However, nothing can return Jesica Santillan to life and there is no need to judge what could happen if the doctors were more attentive and careful fulfilling their direct duties. All that Jesica’s family seeks by presenting the case to the civil action is protection for other patients that might become the victims of criminal negligence of health care workers. This is probably the only point where the views of Jesica’s family coincide with the point of the Duke University Hospital: it is vitally important to retrieve useful lessons from this tragedy and prevent similar cases from happening to any person in future. Hopefully, the case of Jesica Santillan will have considerable social impact and will provide for the improvements of the American health care system as a whole. These improvements are needed because if there are cases like the one discussed, this means that the whole system does not function in the proper way.

In any case, the conclusion of this analysis is that the case of Jesica Santillan’s death after heart and lung transplantation surgery was a tragic result of the medical mistake. The so-called criminal negligence of the people responsible for blood compatibility testing took away the life of an innocent girl. However, it is quite understandable that any discussions cannot correct this mistake. So, the intended outcome of the civil action in this case is protection of other patients from the same dangers.

References

American Heart Association. (2009). Heart Transplants: Statistics. Web.

Duke Medicine News and Communications. (2003). Jesica Santillan and Duke: What We Learned. Web.

Judson, K., Harrison, C., and Hicks, S. (2002). Law and Ethics for Medical Careers, 4th Edition. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill.

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