Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Former Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon Has ‘Significant’ Brain Activity Despite Coma

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.

Engage

  • Events

    Haart to Haart

    Virtual

    Dec 7, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    A conversation with Julia Haart and her son Shlomo, stars of Netflix's 'My Unorthodox Life,' about the new season and much more.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.