A lot has happened in Israel and the wider world since Ariel Sharon suffered his disastrous stroke eight years ago, and doctors do not rule out the possibility that he may have followed some of the developments.
His family exposed him to news and current affairs reports, and Alon Friedman, one of the most knowledgeable doctors in Israel on his condition, said it is “possible” that he absorbed information from the reports. “Unlike with some coma patients, we cannot rule out the possibility that he was aware of things [going on],” added the medic.
But while Mr Sharon may have taken in information, “he could not respond with speech, by moving his hands or eyes,” said Dr Friedman, a neuroscience professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Dr Friedman carried out an MRI scan on Mr Sharon’s brain last year, which showed that it did respond to stimulation. “When you spoke to him, his brain responded and, when his sons spoke to him, the response was more than when he heard, for example, a beep.”
He said: “We know that the information went into his brain and was processed in the right places, almost like a healthy man.” However, “we can only say if the brain is responding in the right place and in the right manner and can’t say what he heard.”
As to whether he has felt a desire to communicate and, as a result, an overwhelming sense of frustration, this cannot be known, said Dr Friedman. What he is sure of, however, is that he was, to some extent, “conscious of his environment”.