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When Jesica died

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 29 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:717
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne, medical journalist
  1. New York

    A teenager's death has highlighted medical errors and transplant problems in the United States

    Sunday 16 March was a bad media day for American medicine—a really bad day, considering it came during annual Patient Safety Week.

    The popular CBS investigative programme 60 Minutes broadcast “Anatomy of a Mistake,” detailing the simple error that killed transplant patient Jesica Santillan. The New York Times headlined its Sunday magazine “Half of what doctors know is wrong” and devoted the issue to “exploring medicine and its myths.”

    Coming on the same day and reaching millions, these two events may be a watershed in focusing public attention on the related problems of medical errors, transplant mistakes, and the malpractice mess.

    Just four days later, on 20 March, the New England Journal of Medicine published a damning Perspective article about the Jesica Santillan case entitled “A Death at Duke” (NEJM 2003;348:1083-4). It said, “When a medical mistake receives this much attention, it affects the medical profession and …

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