After being in a coma since 2006, the health of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has deteriorated dramatically, and doctors say he is suffering from life-threatening vital organ failure.
His family members have gathered in a vigil by his bedside, Israeli media reported on Thursday.
Sheba Medical Center Director Zeev Rotstein said that the 85-year-old former leader is experiencing failure of multiple “organs that are vital to life.”
“We define his condition as critical. His life is definitely in danger,” Rotstein said according to quotes published in the Times of Israel on Thursday.
“The danger [to Sharon's life] exists, [but] as we know, Arik [Sharon] is a powerful man and has survived difficult situations during his time in our hospital,” he said of the former prime minister, who has been hospitalized for seven years in a vegetative state.
“I’m no prophet, but the feeling among the doctors treating him and the family by his side… is that he has taken a turn for the worse,” Rotstein added.
Among Sharon’s failing organs are his kidneys, but he is not receiving dialysis treatment, as it is not recommended for a patient with multiple organ failure, the hospital director added. The former prime minister had been given antibiotics for infections in recent weeks.
Sharon has been in a coma since he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage in January 2006 believed to have been caused by the blood thinners he was taking after a smaller stroke.
The Associated Press described Sharon as “one of Israel's most iconic and controversial figures.”
It offered this biographical information on the former prime minister:
As one of Israel's most famous generals, Sharon was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders. As a politician he became known as "the bulldozer" — a man contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done.
Sharon is credited with helping turn the tide of the 1973 Mideast war when Arab armies launched a surprise attack on Israel on the solemn fasting day of Yom Kippur, causing large Israeli casualties. He led an Israeli force across the Suez Canal, trapping part of the Egyptian army and turning the war in Israel's favor.
Sharon was defense minister, leading Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. He was forced to resign after an Israeli commission of inquiry said he was responsible for failing to prevent the massacre of Palestinians living in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps. Lebanese Christian Phalangists had carried out the killings.
During his tenure as prime minister, Sharon agreed to an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip, a decision that is controversial to this day. Hamas later seized power of Gaza and has regularly used the land strip to launch missiles at southern Israel. Years prior, Sharon had been a leading voice for settling Israelis in lands Israel captured during the 1967 war, including Judea and Samaria (the West Bank.)
After the brain hemorrhage, Sharon never regained full consciousness, but his family says that he occasionally blinks his eyes and moves his fingers, the AP reported.