Israel's comatose ex-leader Sharon shows signs of consciousness

JERUSALEM Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:58am IST

Ariel Sharon (L) sits with his wife Lily (3rd L) and his sons, Gilad (2nd L) and Omri (4th L) during an event to launch his new political party, Shlomzion, in the West Bank in this picture taken in 1977. REUTERS/Dudu Grunshpan

Ariel Sharon (L) sits with his wife Lily (3rd L) and his sons, Gilad (2nd L) and Omri (4th L) during an event to launch his new political party, Shlomzion, in the West Bank in this picture taken in 1977.

Credit: Reuters/Dudu Grunshpan

Related Topics

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Seven years after suffering a massive stroke comatose ex- Israeli prime minister =has surprised his doctors by displaying "a certain degree of consciousness," an expert who examined him using an MRI scan said on Sunday.

The results of tests conducted by a joint Israeli-American team did not mean the former general and right-wing politician turned peacemaker was about to wake up from the coma he has been in since a January 2006 stroke.

But doctors saw the responses displayed by Sharon, 84, in a two-hour exam on Thursday as "encouraging" that there may some day be a cure for some comas, Alon Friedman, a neurological director at Israel's Soroka Medical Centre in Beersheba, said.

Experts at Soroka, joined by a leading U.S. neurologist, Martin Monti, of the University of California Los Angeles, scanned Sharon's brain to test its function Friedman told Reuters in an interview by telephone.

"The chances of him getting out of bed are very, very slim," Friedman said.

But the machine detected some brain activity, when Sharon was shown photographs of his family and also when asked to imagine his home, he said.

These findings suggest that despite Sharon's comatose state "he might be listening, and some important information goes into his brain and is being processed," Friedman said.

Sharon "might be awake, and there is a chance that he is conscious," though due to paralysis suffered as a result of his stroke he cannot respond physically, he added.

"To some extent the patient is what we call 'locked in', he understands and responds with his brain but cannot activate any muscles."

Friedman said Sharon's eyes were open for at least part of the time when he responded to the sight of family photographs.

More surprising were signs the machine showed that Sharon had processed a request to imagine various scenes such as his home, Friedman said, adding that Sharon's brain had also shown signs of responding to his son, Gilad's voice.

"The results of the tests are not clear but encouraging, and they surprised us," Friedman said, adding he saw the results as contributing to data about potential stimuli scientists hope may someday help them awaken certain patients from a coma.

"This is futuristic, and not the case at the moment," he said.

Sharon's stroke felled him at a critical juncture in Israeli politics.

Once a hard-line defence chief, Sharon made a dramatic political about-face with a 2005 Gaza pullout. His illness came just weeks after he made a dramatic exit from the right-wing Likud party to found a centrist faction in the hope of advancing peace moves with the Palestinians.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Jason Webb)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Reuters Showcase

Climate Watch

Climate Watch

Climate change to trigger longer, fiercer "megadroughts" - study.  Full Article 

Fighting Ebola

Fighting Ebola

WHO experts advise against travel or trade bans on Ebola-hit Africa.  Full Article 

New ISI Chief

New ISI Chief

Pakistan appoints ally of army chief to head intelligence agency.  Full Article 

Attack Anniversary

Attack Anniversary

Shots fired at Nairobi mall rattle Kenyans a year after Westgate.  Full Article 

Oil Detox

Oil Detox

Philanthropies, including Rockefellers, and investors pledge $50bln fossil fuel divestment.  Full Article 

Afghan Politics

Afghan Politics

Afghan president-elect promises unity after disputed vote.  Full Article 

Ukraine Fighting

Ukraine Fighting

Ukraine's military readies to pull back big guns after fall-off in separatist fire.  Full Article 

Demanding Democracy

Demanding Democracy

Thousands of Hong Kong students "grasp destiny" in demand for democracy.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage