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Santillan Family Attorney Holds Press Conference

Aired February 22, 2003 - 15:38   ET


RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: We now want to take you to a press conference going on at Duke University Medical Center involving the case of Jesica Santillan. Let's listen in.
KURT DIXON, ATTORNEY, SANTILLAN FAMILY: At approximately 1:30 this afternoon, as part of these examinations, a test known as an electroencephalogram, or EEG, which basically measures brain waves, was administered. Both times the EEG was given, the results were consistent and showed that Jesica currently has no brain activity.

A brain perfusion study, which essentially measures the amount of blood flowing to the brain, was also administered during both of today's examinations. Both times, the tests showed that Jesica's brain currently has no blood flowing to it. I want to emphasize to you that this second test, the results of that, might be in error. The family was very distraught when I just came from there, and although America, who you all know, was trying to be as accurate as she could, that is the best she could do and I think that the second tests were done. But hopefully -- well, soon we will know for sure.

Based on the outcome of these tests and other examinations, Jesica's doctors have pronounced that Jesica has died. However, the doctors earlier had also informed the family that they are entitled to a second opinion. Apparently, now they are saying that the family is not entitled to a second opinion.

The family has decided, based on their earlier representation, that they would like to pursue a second opinion, and they were in the process of trying to select appropriate doctors for that task.

During the first meeting this morning, the family expressly told Duke that they did not wish to remove Jesica from life support. The Santillan family would again like to express their sincere gratitude and heartfelt condolences to both of Jesica's donor families. As you might expect, Jesica's family and the family of Mack Mahoney, are devastated by this tragic turn of events. Both of these families have requested me to again express their tremendous appreciation for the public for all your prayers and support. They would also like me to especially thank the members of the press corps who helped make Jesica's plight known to the world.

However, the Santillan family and the Mahoney family have also asked me to convey to the press that they will be declining further interviews. Both families asked that the press please respect their wishes during this very stressful time. Since we began talking about this situation with a prayer, we would like at least to end the official press conference here with a prayer. Then I'll be available for some quick questions. But I do have to get back over there very quickly. Thank you.

Renee McCormick will now say a prayer for us.

RENEE MCCORMICK, SPOKESWOMAN, JESICA'S HOPE CHEST: Dear heavenly father, we want to thank you for being sovereign. We want to thank you for the love. We want to thank you for Jesica's life. In one week, she was able to touch more hearts in this world than most of us combined in this room will ever do in a lifetime. She was a beautiful soul, she was your soul, Lord, she belongs to you. And we know that she is rejoicing, and we know that the family is mourning.

Lord, we ask that you comfort and unconditionally hold and give this family the power to endure this tragic turn of events, love them and cradle them, and just, Lord, Jesica is now yours and she's your child, Lord, and you are her father. And Lord, we love you, and we thank you, and we know that Jesica's work on this earth is done. And she is now an angel.

And with that, I just want to say it has been such a blessing for me to be part of this experience and the last week of this child's life. And Lord, thank you, and we love you, and we ask these things in Jesus' name, amen.


QUESTION: Did they declare her brain dead?

DIXON: Yes, they did.

QUESTION: And so does that mean that they now have the power to turn the machine off or not?

DIXON: Well, apparently, they're telling the family that. We've done some research ourselves. There's at least one statute there that indicates the parents or legal guardian have the right to consent before that would happen. So that's -- I need to get back over there fairly quickly and see if that, in fact, is what they're doing.

Again, I want to emphasize to you things about this second test and the second meeting that they have are fairly sketchy. The family really was very distraught. And it was hard to try to get any kind of factual information out from the folks I was talking to. But I did do my best.


DIXON: Well, yes, they did. However, I cannot talk to any Duke employees because they have retained outside counsel. And so I have to sort of keep my remarks to outside council.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) DIXON: That was -- that was something that -- well, actually, no, I cannot explain that. I was on the list to go in there. And as of last night sometime, apparently I was taken off the list and I really did not want to create any more controversy last night when the family was going through what they were, so I just decided to stay out of the ICU.

QUESTION: Can you tell me what the prevailing law is on who legally has the right to pull life support?

DIXON: I don't want to answer that directly right now. We're researching that currently, as we speak.


DIXON: Well, all I can say is they better be right if that's what they're doing.

QUESTION: Has the hospital said when they'll turn off the machine?

DIXON: No, no, they have not, as far as I know.

QUESTION: At this point, the parents do not want to cut her off life support?

DIXON: Yes, I want to emphasize that. The Santillan family wants to keep Jesica on life support.

QUESTION: Can you describe the situation in which the family was prevented from prayer, having group prayer?

DIXON: No, I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: Are they still seeking a second opinion?

DIXON: They would like to.

QUESTION: Do they have a doctor in mind?

QUESTION: Are they from outside Duke?


DIXON: I believe it's general statute 90-322.

QUESTION: That's what you are relying on?

DIXON: I don't want to say we're relying on it. That's just one that I referred to, and basically, when we were researching that, that was the first one that came up.

QUESTION: Do you already have a doctor?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on life support indefinitely or pending another test, a second opinion? DIXON: I am sorry, say that again?

QUESTION: Does the family want to keep her on life support indefinitely or pending a second opinion?

DIXON: It's my understanding that that was pending a second opinion.

QUESTION: Do they have a doctor in mind, a specific doctor?

DIXON: I don't know that right now. They're not actually making that call. They're receiving assistance on who might be a good possible second opinion -- doctor for a second opinion.

QUESTION: Were you present when they told, when they broke the news to the family? Were you actually there?

DIXON: No, no, I was not. They did that back in ICU and I'm not allowed back there right now.


DIXON: Probably would have been maybe about an hour ago, it seemed like to me, based on their reactions.


DIXON: No, we have not had any in-depth discussion about that. They've made no decisions.

QUESTION: Was he asked to leave, or did he leave on his own volition? What prompted his abrupt departure?

DIXON: That was basically his decision.

QUESTION: He has power of attorney, didn't he? Does he still have power of attorney?

DIXON: I think he does up until the time she's declared dead.

QUESTION: Which she has been?

DIXON: I don't know that they have done that yet. I don't. And so I did want to come over here because I know you all were waiting patiently for probably the last two hours, but I do have to wrap it up and get back there. Maybe I can come back later. But right now, I do need to get back.

QUESTION: Who is the opposing counsel that they've hired?

DIXON: I'm not going to release that right now. Thank you. Appreciate it.

SAN MIGUEL: You've been listening to Kurt Dixon, the attorney for the Santillan family.


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