- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 8, 2006

JERUSALEM — A scan of Ariel Sharon’s brain yesterday showed improvement, but doctors decided to wait another day to start bringing the Israeli leader out of his medically induced coma — an important step in determining how much damage he suffered from a massive stroke.

One of Mr. Sharon’s doctors said that even if the prime minister survives, he would not be able to return to office. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Cabinet he would work to carry on Mr. Sharon’s political legacy.

Mr. Sharon remained in critical condition yesterday at Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital after suffering a stroke late Wednesday and undergoing two lengthy surgeries to stop massive bleeding in his brain. Mr. Sharon also experienced a mild stroke Dec. 18.

Doctors have kept Mr. Sharon in a medically induced coma and on a respirator since Thursday to give him time to heal. His medical team decided it would begin this morning to reduce the level of sedatives he is receiving to start pulling him out of the coma.

Specialists said the process could take six to eight hours, and doctors should have a good idea of the extent of the damage by the end of the day.

A new brain scan yesterday showed that his vital signs, including the pressure inside his skull, were normal, said Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the hospital’s director general.

“His condition is still critical but stable, and there is improvement in the CT picture of the brain,” Dr. Mor-Yosef said.

Doctors will furnish Attorney General Meni Mazuz with their assessment of brain damage.

“They will inform us the moment they wake him up from the sedation and they will know what systems were damaged and what his situation is,” said Justice Ministry spokesman Jacob Galanti.

If doctors determine that Mr. Sharon is permanently incapacitated, the Cabinet would meet immediately to choose a new prime minister from among the five sitting Cabinet ministers from Mr. Sharon’s Kadima party.

Mr. Olmert is seen as Mr. Sharon’s most likely heir.

One of Mr. Sharon’s surgeons, Dr. Jose Cohen, said that although the leader’s chances of survival were high, his ability to think and reason would be impaired.

“He will not continue to be prime minister, but maybe he will be able to understand and to speak,” Dr. Cohen said in comments published yesterday by the Jerusalem Post.

Outside specialists were even less optimistic.

“There is zero expectation on my part that he will have the capacity to perform in any kind of formal way,” said Dr. Keith Siller, medical director at New York University’s Comprehensive Stroke Care Center.

“We are basically hoping he survives and that he has some kind of ability to get some rehab so he can have some useful function again. But we are talking about … very basic things. The complexity of this man, and what he did for a living, this is … absolutely unrealistic at this time.”

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