Though a death certificate has been issued for Jahi McMath, many of the 13-year-old Oakland girl’s classmates still believe the “quiet leader” who laughed at jokes that weren’t funny will one day return to school — if they just pray hard enough.
“The school told us that she’s not officially dead yet,” said Dymond Allen, one of Jahi’s friends at EC Reems Academy of Technology and Arts in East Oakland. “And we should keep her in our prayers. I still hope. And God has the last say-so.”
The academy’s chief operating officer Lisa Blair said she has tried to honor Jahi’s family’s wishes by telling students that their classmate may still be alive, even though doctors say she is legally and clinically dead.
The students responded with an outpouring of faith.
“Most kids are Christian here,” Blair said, “and they believe that if you continue praying, there’s always a possibility. The students understand the debate. They’re just choosing spirituality over science.”
Blair visited Children’s Hospital Oakland on Jan. 5, just after Jahi’s family won a court battle to keep the girl on life support and transfer her elsewhere. Blair said she “saw something” on that visit that made her believe Jahi, a quiet student who was recently elected to be a judge on student council, was not truly dead.
On Thursday, about 250 of Blair’s students donned purple T-shirts emblazoned with the words “#TeamJahi” and “Keep Calm, Pray On.”
Parents were given the opportunity to have their child “opt out” of the event, but the vast majority did not, because most of them know her, Blair added.
Jahi has been part of the school’s “extended” family for more than a decade. Jahi’s older sister, Jabria Milsap, now 20, graduated in 2009 as valedictorian. Her brother, Jose Llamas, is now in fourth grade at the school. Jahi’s younger sister, Jordyn Johnson, is in kindergarten.
Jahi’s case has ignited a furious national debate about patient rights and the definition of “brain death,” which is considered “true death” by state law.
She was declared brain dead Dec. 12, three days after suffering complications from surgery to help her sleep apnea. Her mother, Latasha “Nailah” Winkfield, said she believes in God and that as long as her daughter’s heart is beating – even if it is with the aid of a machine – then Jahi is alive.
Her family fought for the right to keep her on life support, and was eventually allowed to move Jahi to an undisclosed Catholic facility that the coroner’s spokesman said is “out of state.”
The family’s attorney says she is now receiving nutrition through tubes, despite medical testimony filed (PDF) in court that most of Jahi’s bodily functions have ceased.
Bioethicists, scientists, lawyers, doctors, religious leaders and others continue to argue the legal, medical and ethical aspects of her condition.
Source: NBC News | Lisa Fernandez