Hospital Spokesman Dictates Limits For Hope and Prayer

Sam Singer, spokesman for the Children's Hospital Oakland, has taken it upon himself to dictate the limits of hope and prayer.

Singer is one of the players in the gut wrenching saga of Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old Northern California girl who went in for a tonsillectomy and ended up brain dead.  The second girl in two years to suffer severe brain damage under similar conditions at Children's Hospital Oakland, the case obviously has the hospital on the defensive.

In a jaw-dropping statement, made on behalf of the hospital, Mr. Singer, speaking with greater authority than anyone could have imagined, told the world:  "There is, unfortunately, no amount of hope, no amount of prayer that can bring her back."

If Mr. Singer wants to tell us she is brain dead, fine.  If he wants to tell us that an independent physician also declared her brain dead and "there was no question of that," - fine.  She was indeed pronounced dead only three days after she underwent surgery to treat sleep apnea.  The "complications" she suffered have not been detailed, but we do know she went into cardiac arrest.  We also know that after an independent review of the case, a judge gave the go ahead to remove the life support that was keeping her alive.  It was at this point that hospital spokesman Sam Singer threw down his theological gauntlet.

A hospital spokesperson should deal in facts.  Hope and prayer are not facts. No one should dictate to another man what the limits of his hope should be.  Greater than that, Mr. Singers' revelation that he personally knows that prayer will not work is an insult to people of all faiths.  Unless Mr. Singer is speaking on behalf of God himself and not the Children's Hospital, he is going to have a lot of explaining to do to that divine entity which he so flippantly robbed of power.

Late Monday, less than an hour after the hospital was scheduled to disconnect Jahi, her family won a restraining order preventing the hospital from removing her ventilator for another week.

According to court filings, her family will be scrambling as they try to move Jahi to a center in Medford, NY that is willing to provide her 24-hour care.

It is not uncommon for medical miscalculations to be made, or for God to be underestimated.  Just last year, a young man in the U.K. was declared brain dead by four specialists after he suffered devastating injuries in a car crash.  His parents refused to give up hope, his father begged doctors to check again, and two weeks later faint signs of brain activity were detected. Seven weeks later, he was released from the hospital.  If not for his parent's perseverance, he would be dead.

We don't know what will happen in the case of little Jahi McMath; but with every ounce of my being, and for the sake of everyone who dares to hope and pray for loved ones around the world, may God prove the doubters wrong once again and say "Talitha koum!" - "Little girl, I say to you, arise."

Whatever the outcome, may we never lose hope, nor our faith in the power of prayer - and may we never be guilty of that greater sin...causing others to lose theirs.

Susan D. Harris can be reached at


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