Slow deterioration in functioning of Sharon's vital organs, says hospital

Hospital chief sees former premier as facing his last days; comatose 85-year-old suffers blood infection, remains in critical condition.

Ariel Sharon. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Ariel Sharon.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon remained in critical condition on Friday with his life at risk, the head of the hospital treating him announced.
Over the past day a slow deterioration in the functioning of the 85-year-old's vital  organs has occurred, Prof. Ze’ev Rotstein, head of Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer said  at a press conference Friday morning.
Rotstein said tests indicated a blood infection among the ailments faced by Sharon.
Asked by a reporter if Sharon was in his final days, Rotshein responded saying, "I personally feel so".
"He is comfortable at this time. To the best of our understanding he is not suffering, such that we do not have to take any action to prevent him suffering," Rotstein said.
His sons remained by his side.
Sharon, who had been comatose for almost eight year following a stroke, was announced to have been in critical condition Thursday as plans for a state funeral began to be discussed behind the scenes.
Sharon, now 85, had made clear that he preferred to be buried at his Negev home – Sycamore Ranch – next to his late wife Lily and not in the traditional grave-site for former prime ministers on Mount Herzl in the capital. The Prime Minister’s Office would handle arrangements for a funeral together with Sharon’s sons, Gilad and Omri.
It was unclear on Thursday whether many world leaders and foreign ministers would come to the funeral, as they have to the recent funerals of former South African president Nelson Mandela and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke warmly of Sharon in his Jerusalem press conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
A close confidant of Sharon who visited his hospital bed on Thursday told The Jerusalem Post that since he entered a coma after his stroke, the former prime minister’s family always hoped in vain that something would happen that would enable him to return to his former health. He said it was unclear how long Sharon would live.
“Nobody knows, not even the doctor, how long he could hold on,” the confidant said.
“If there is anything positive that emerged from this, it is the response from the public. We thought that after eight years nobody would care, but it’s not so.”
Saturday marks eight years since Sharon’s severe second stroke.
At press time, Sharon remained in critical condition, and his life remained in danger due to a deterioration in the function of vital organs,  Rotstein said.
Rotstein told reporters that Sharon, who was reported to have been suffering from serious kidney failure, was not on dialysis, but that doctors were administering antibiotics due to numerous infections.
“He’s getting all the treatment necessary,” Rotstein said. “I am no prophet, but the feeling of his doctors and his sons is that there has been a change for the worse.”
Hospital officials confirmed that not only Sharon’s kidneys, but also other organs had stopped working. They could not confirm reports that they were taking steps to stabilize but not to improve his medical condition.
Sharon’s long-time spokesman, Ra’anan Gissin, said, “There is no doubt that it is terminal.
We can’t see any recovery or improvement in his health condition.”
Gissin, who served as Sharon’s spokesman for 15 years, said he last saw him in the hospital some five years ago, and has stayed in touch with Sharon’s sons and former driver.
Gissin characterized his former boss as “not a person you can forget, he is in people’s minds.”
He said that he still meets people on the street who recognize him from his days at Sharon’s side, and say that they think about the former prime minister.
According to Gissin, Sharon was “fighting until the last moment,” something that indicated that his “life force is so strong. We need people like him to continue the project of building the State of Israel.”
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar told reporters on a tour of the Jordan Valley that Sharon was “a warrior and a leader who is fighting at this moment for his life.”
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett praised Sharon for shaping the IDF’s values, such as succeeding in a mission no matter the cost, never leaving the wounded behind and the commander always being on the front line.
“Certainly there are many of us (myself included) with great anger about the expulsion of 8,000 Gush Katif residents from their homes and the disastrous results for the citizens of Israel,” Bennett wrote on his official Facebook page. “But during these hours, while Sharon is fighting for his life, we should remember his merits.”
In the Gaza Strip, a Hamas leader spoke bitterly of a man the movement sees as one of the Palestinians’ worst enemies.
“Ariel Sharon is going the same direction as other tyrants and criminals whose hands were covered in Palestinian blood,” said the leader, Khalil al-Hayya.
There was no sympathy in the West Bank either.
“God willing, he dies,” said Rauf Ramia, a laborer from the Kalandiya refugee camp, north of Jerusalem. “He’s a terrible person.”
Reuters and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.