Former Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon Has 'Significant' Brain Activity Despite Coma

Leader Responded to Voices and Family Photos: Doctors

‘Positive Indication’: Ariel Sharon, shown here in a 2005 photo, still has significant brain activity despite a severe stroke in 2006, doctors say.
getty images
‘Positive Indication’: Ariel Sharon, shown here in a 2005 photo, still has significant brain activity despite a severe stroke in 2006, doctors say.

By Reuters

Published January 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Seven years after suffering a massive stroke comatose ex- Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon 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.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.