- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

JERUSALEM — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was rushed to the intensive care unit of a Tel Aviv hospital yesterday to undergo a form of kidney dialysis, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Mr. Sharon’s condition deteriorated significantly earlier in the week, when officials at the Sheba Medical Center said that his kidneys were failing and that they had noticed changes in his brain membrane.

Mr. Sharon, 78, has been in a coma since suffering a massive stroke on Jan. 4.

His blood will be filtered to remove the excess fluids accumulating in his body as a result of the kidney failure, the hospital said. He also is receiving antibiotics intravenously to treat a bacterial infection in his blood.

Dr. John Martin, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at London’s University College, said that the infection in Mr. Sharon’s blood indicates his immune system is weak, and that the problem could damage other vital organs, such as the liver.

Normally, doctors do not treat patients in Mr. Sharon’s condition, Dr. Martin said. However, the dialysis and antibiotics could keep Mr. Sharon alive for weeks or even months, he said.

“The best thing might be to allow Ariel Sharon to die by not doing this kidney dialysis, and that is considered ethical throughout the world,” Dr. Martin said.

Dr. Philip Stieg, director of the neurosurgery department at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, said the combined kidney failure and blood infection increase the chance that Mr. Sharon will contract pneumonia, a common killer of people his age and in his condition.

At the moment, Dr. Stieg said, Mr. Sharon is suffering “multisystem failure” and “it just becomes a snowball that just keeps getting bigger.”

Mr. Sharon, Israel’s most popular politician, had a small stroke in December and was put on blood thinners before suffering the severe brain hemorrhage in January. The Israeli leader underwent several, extensive brain surgeries to stop the bleeding.

The last surgery, in April, reattached a part of Mr. Sharon’s skull that was removed to reduce pressure on his brain. The reattachment was described as a necessary step before transferring Mr. Sharon to the long-term care facility at Sheba hospital.

The stroke occurred after Mr. Sharon saw through his contentious plan to withdraw Israel from the Gaza Strip after 38 years. Just two months before, Mr. Sharon shook up the Israeli political map by bolting his hard-line Likud Party to form the centrist Kadima faction.

After the stroke, Mr. Sharon’s successor as party leader, Ehud Olmert, led Kadima to victory in a March 28 vote and became prime minister.

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