Victim of botched transplant declared dead
Hospital: 'We very much regret these tragic circumstances'
DURHAM, North Carolina (CNN) -- Doctors at Duke University Hospital declared Jesica Santillan dead at 1:25 p.m. Saturday and removed her from a respirator soon after. The 17 year-old girl had two heart and lung transplants this month, the first of which used organs with the wrong blood type.
"As of approximately 5 p.m., she is no longer on a respirator," a hospital spokeswoman told CNN. Santillan was declared dead by doctors after a series of tests determined she had no brain function, the hospital said in a statement.
"All of us at Duke University Hospital are deeply saddened by this," said Dr. William Fulkerson, chief executive of the hospital. "We want Jesica's family and supporters to know that we share their loss and their grief. We very much regret these tragic circumstances."
Santillan had been clinging to life since shortly after her first transplant February 7, when she was given organs from a donor with an incompatible blood type -- type A, which did not match her O-positive blood -- causing her weakened body to reject them. The hospital has acknowledged that her surgeon, Dr. James Jaggers, erred in not checking the blood type before performing the first transplant, according to The Associated Press.
Another heart and lungs became available, and Santillan underwent her second transplant Thursday.
On Friday, the hospital said the Mexican teen's new heart and lungs were "working well" but that the results of a CAT scan performed at 3 a.m. EST revealed she has experienced "significant swelling and bleeding in her brain, which is life-threatening." Doctors inserted a tube in an attempt to relieve the swelling and repeated tests Saturday morning.
The critically ill teen had been at the center of a dispute pitting Mack Mahoney, Santillan's self-proclaimed godfather, against Duke University Medical Center.
Doctors believe the brain injury was caused by time she spent on heart-lung machines, Mahoney said.
Mahoney maintains that after the unsuccessful transplant, he was forced to battle the hospital's administration because it didn't want unflattering publicity about the error.
He claims the hospital was more concerned about protecting its reputation than trying to find suitable donor organs from a compatible blood group.
The delay damaged Santillan's brain and might have cost her her life, he charged. The administration needed to say it made a mistake "and not let a child lay on life support 10 or 14 days knowing that it's ruining her brain, it's ruining the other organs," he said.
The hospital denies the allegation, saying it did everything possible to correct the error and give Santillan the best possible care.
Doctors had said the second surgery would give the teen a 50 percent chance of survival. Without it, she would die, doctors had said.
Two and half years ago, Mahoney set up a foundation in the girl's behalf after reading a newspaper article about how she needed a transplant because of a heart deformity that kept her lungs from getting oxygen into her blood. He has acted as the family's spokesman because Santillan's parents speak only Spanish.
-- CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and senior medical producer Miriam Falco contributed to this report.