Jesica Santillan (December 26, 1985 - February 22, 2003) was a Mexican national who died after an organ transplant operation in which she received the heart and lungs of a patient whose blood type did not match hers. Doctors at the Duke University Medical Center failed to check the compatibility before surgery began.
Jesica, whose blood was type O-positive, had a heart condition (restrictive cardiomyopathy and secondary nonreactive pulmonary hypertension), that resulted in reduced blood perfusion in her lungs. She had been hospitalized at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. On February 7, 2003, she received the heart and lung transplant. The new organs had been flown in from Boston. Blood test results proving that the organ blood type (type A) and Jesica's blood type (O-Positive) did not match came in just as the surgery was ending and she was given immo-suppression drugs.
Jesica, two siblings, her mother Magdelena Santillan and her mother's boyfriend Melecio Huerta illegally entered the United States from Tamazula, Mexico, a town 275 miles west of Mexico City, so that she could receive medical treatment. Relatives have stated that the family paid a smuggler to get them across the border.
On February 20, Jesica received a new heart and set of lungs after a new donor was found late on February 19, 2003. On February 21, she was declared brain dead.
Transplant surgeon Dr. James Jaggers, stated, "Unfortunately, in this case, human errors were made during the process. I hope that we, and others, can learn from this tragic mistake."
After Jesica's death, the Santillan family was approached by the hospital to determine if her salvageable organs could be donated for use in other transplant patients. On the advice of their attorneys, the family declined.