EUGENE, Ore. – Autumn Lee’s death certificate will state that she died on Sept. 6.

But her heart didn’t stop beating until Wednesday evening, when officials at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield removed the 33-year-old Salem woman from life support.

Lee’s family isn’t challenging a physician’s determination that she died at 11:45 a.m. Monday, about 20 hours after a rafting accident on the McKenzie River.

What the family objects to is a state law that sets forth guidelines that a doctor must follow before declaring that a person’s life has ended.

Lee’s stepfather, Don Wyant of Salem, told The Register-Guard that the question of when the family believes she died “is the wrong question to fit our family” because they believe “it may not be a measurable, physical formula” that determines when someone dies.

The family prayed that God would heal Lee, and believes that she showed signs of life after being declared dead.

They reported Tuesday in a blog titled “Praying for Autumn asking for full restoration!” that Lee had lifted her arm and squeezed a relative’s hand, noting that that gesture “scientifically should not have happened.”

Wyant said that while the family held out hope for Lee’s recovery, the bottom line is that the family believes “it should be irrelevant to the government when our judgment of death actually occurs, when it occurs or what extraordinary efforts we might want to pursue when it comes to making decisions for our flesh and blood.”

Under state law, a doctor must use “accepted medical standards” to declare that someone has died.

Legally speaking, death officially happens when a person’s brain or heart and lungs stop working, and a doctor determines that the condition is irreversible. That means a person could be declared dead even if he is still on a life-support respirator.

Oregon is one of 40 states to define death in those terms.

The definitions were established in 1981 in the Uniform Determination of Death Act. A presidential commission initially proposed the act, which gained support from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association.

Lee’s family rejects the legal definition because it believes in God’s power to resurrect the dead.

“Actually, we don’t look at any physical condition as irreversible,” Wyant said.

While it’s rare, people have lived after a doctor ruled that they had died.

Frank Ratti, Lane County chief deputy medical examiner, recalls just one case in 25 years in which a person lived after being declared dead.

He said doctors declared a woman dead while dealing with “a chaotic event,” which could have led to a wrong conclusion.