Doctors mull when to try to awaken Sharon
By Corinne Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Doctors treating Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon decided on Sunday to carry out another
brain scan before determining when to begin rousing him from a
medically induced coma and assess damage caused by a stroke.
Surgeons at Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital, where the
77-year-old has been under sedation and on a respirator since
Wednesday’s stroke, said there is a good chance he will survive
though it is unclear how much his faculties have been impaired.
The hospital said there had been no change overnight in
Sharon’s “critical but stable” condition.
A Hospital spokesman said the prime minister’s doctors met
on Sunday and ordered another computerized brain scan to help
them reach a decision on when to attempt to bring him gradually
out of sedation.
The medical consensus was that even if he survived, Sharon
– for many, Israel’s most dominant figure since founding Prime
Minister David Ben-Gurion — was unlikely to return to
The death or incapacity of Sharon, who raised peace hopes
by pulling Israeli settlers and troops out of Gaza in September
to end 38 years of military rule, would create a void in
Israeli politics and efforts to forge peace with the
Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the hospital director had said on
Saturday Sharon’s condition had improved slightly after
emergency surgery on Friday to staunch bleeding in his skull.
“We as human beings are optimistic,” he told reporters.
“But I cannot say that the prime minister has come out of
Hadassah neurosurgeon Jose Cohen said Sharon’s chances of
survival were “very high.”
But Cohen stressed in remarks to Channel 2 television that
Sharon would not be unscathed: “To say that after a severe
impact like this one there would not be cognitive problems is
just not acknowledging reality.”
Doctors also said there was no guarantee Sharon would
regain consciousness even when his sedation was lifted.
Hospital officials said an additional update on his condition
would be given at about noon (1000 GMT).
Sharon underwent a computerized brain scan on Saturday that
Mor-Yosef said showed swelling caused by fluid build-up in the
brain had decreased and pressure had returned to normal.
“We are all impressed by how strong he is and how much he
is fighting,” Cohen said. “He is just a real warrior, it is his
From Jerusalem synagogues where worshippers prayed for his
recovery to Tel Aviv beach cafes where youths carried
surfboards, Israelis anxiously followed the ex-general’s fate.
At an Israeli league soccer match on Saturday, loudspeakers
announced: “Today we are playing soccer but all our eyes are on
the hospital.” Fans chanted their support.
Throughout the Jewish state, radios were tuned to news
broadcasts for any scrap of new information.
World leaders pledged support for Sharon’s deputy, Ehud
Olmert, appointed acting prime minister.
Sharon is reviled in the Arab world but increasingly seen
by the West as having opened up new prospects for peace. He
suffered the stroke at a crucial juncture as he was fighting
for re-election on a promise to end conflict with the
Political analysts said Israel’s March 28 election, which
Sharon had been widely expected to win as head of the new
centrist Kadima party, would become an open race without him.
Much of Sharon’s popularity among Israelis stems from a
belief he could take bold steps toward reconciliation with the
Palestinians which others would not get away with, given his
background as the archetypal hawk.
But Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, a key member of Kadima,
said the party would move ahead with Sharon’s vision even if he
did not return to politics.
“Kadima’s political path … explains the principles of how
to handle the conflict with the Palestinians,” she said.
Sharon had been campaigning on a platform of readiness to
give up some occupied land in the West Bank, but has vowed to
hold on to major West Bank settlement blocs, a prospect
Palestinians say would deny them a viable state.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams, Allyn Fisher-Ilan
and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, and Sue
Pleming in Washington)