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A Death RetoldJesica Santillan, the Bungled Transplant, and Paradoxes of Medical Citizenship$
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Keith Wailoo, Julie Livingston, and Peter Guarnaccia

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780807830598

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807877524_wailoo

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From Libby Zion to Jesica Santillan

From Libby Zion to Jesica Santillan

Many Truths

(p.82) From Libby Zion to Jesica Santillan
A Death Retold

Barron H. Lerner

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter presents a comparative analysis of the 1984 Libby Zion case and the medical error in Jesica Santillan's story. Because of poor documentation and contradictory memories in the Zion case, a clear-cut account of the events is impossible to produce. By revisiting the case of Libby Zion and studying the ways in which the case has been told and retold, this chapter demonstrates how difficult it is to draw simple lessons from individual cases of medical error. It presents four factors that interfered with efforts to draw definitive conclusions about what had occurred with the Santillan case: different participants and commentators construct different narratives of events beginning immediately after the mistake occurs; explanations of catastrophic medical errors are historically contingent; issues of blame and responsibility tend to be the enduring legacy of medical error cases; and the randomness of disease complicates efforts to prove that errors occurred and that they produced bad outcomes.

Keywords:   Libby Zion, Jesica Santillan, medical errors, medical error cases, disease

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