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Mandela not ‘vegetative,’ South African authorities say

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South African authorities have gone on the defensive about the health of Nelson Mandela, disputing a court filing that labeled the former president as completely vegetative.

The court documents were filed on June 27 as part of a legal matter about Mandela family graves. The papers claim that physician statements were forthcoming that would show Mr. Mandela "is in a permanent vegetative state," according to the Associated Press.

A subsequent court filing didn't include that phrase, though both sets of documents said that Mr. Mandela was on a breathing machine.

The government issue a statement Friday saying Mandela is in critical but stable condition, AP reported. A close friend of Mr. Mandela's said earlier in the week that he is conscious and responsive.

"There is not sign of a general organ collapse and therefore they do not recommend switching off the machine because there's every chance that his health will improve," the friend said.

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