Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could still regain consciousness, even though he has been comatose since suffering a massive stroke on January 4, Hadassah Hospital director Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef said Monday at a conference at Tel Aviv University.
"The condition of the prime minister is really serious, he is stable ... Yes, there is a chance the prime minister will wake up. It's not something that can be ruled out. The chances aren't great but it's not a situation that can be ruled out," said Mor-Yosef. "If the prime minister wakes up, what will his condition be? That is still an open question," Army Radio reported.
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Mor Yosef added that no one dictated the content of his announcement, but that common sense dictated that his announcement carries great political weight.
"Before making this announcement I spoke with the director of the Prime Minister's Office and the Cabinet secretary, who both spoke with the Attorney General."
Regarding media attempts to gain access to Sharon's medical files, Mor Yosef said that the hospital staff wrote everything about the prime minister by hand and not on computer so as to block any media attempt to got a hold of his files.
Meanwhile, a survey conducted for Tel Aviv University showed that two-thirds of the public want the media to release information about the health of public leaders, although half are not interested in hearing details about the prime minister's medical records.
The survey was carried out for the university's Y. Cohen Public Opinion Research Institute by Dr. Nurit Guttman of its communications department and Riva Tokchinsky of the University of Haifa's communications department and was presented Monday at a TAU conference on "Medical Doctors and Illnesses of Leaders."
Eighty percent of a national sample polled for the Israel Medical Association said there should be clear regulations about revealing information from the medical files of hospitalized national leaders.
Seventy-eight percent of those polled said they had been exposed to a significant or very significant degree of coverage of Sharon's illness after his first and second strokes. However, a third of those polled said they were not at all or not very satisfied by coverage. Seven in 10 said coverage was credible or very credible, while only 51% of the public generally regard the media as reliable.
Two-thirds of those polled said that the media succeeded in presenting important medical information and that it was "full and in depth." But 81% nevertheless thought that the media had devoted too much time to covering Sharon's condition, and 71% said that reporters presented too much speculation. About half of those polled thought there was "overkill" due to the media's competition over "ratings."
Although there was general satisfaction with coverage of Sharon's hospitalization at Hadassah-University Hospital in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, those surveyed gave lower marks to the media for their responsibility to "tell the whole story." When reports by doctors contradict those of the media, most of the public (71%) said they would believe the doctors.
Eighty-four percent of the public said they thought the hospital's administrators and spokesmen were reliable or very reliable, but only 60% thought the hospital told "the whole story" about Sharon's condition. Forty-two percent said that his personal physician or the team taking care of him should be the main sources of information. But 36% said it was enough for the hospital's spokeswoman or director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization to issue the reports.
Half said it was very important for the media to get independent commentary on Sharon's condition from doctors outside of Hadassah, and 44% said such commentary was as reliable as information provided by Hadassah, while 17% said the outside experts were even more reliable.
Interestingly, 44% of those polled thought coverage by the media influenced the medical staff's considerations in treating Sharon.
The majority of the public thought it was important or very important for the media to discuss the quality of decisions relating to his care, but there was no unanimity about whether journalists should have disclosed all of his medical history. Women were less likely to favor exposure of his medical past and thought "non-vital" details were revealed. Women were also more critical of the media's coverage.