Thursday, January 05, 2006

Is Sharon Dead?

1:26 pm PST/5 Jan 06

You'll note that we've changed our headline. About 90 minutes ago, doctors treating Israeli PM Ariel Sharon reported that he is still alive, but his condition is grave. He is on a respirator, and will remain "sedated" (actually, a medically-induced coma) for up to 72 hours. His prognosis is poor, and political sources say it is highly unlikely he can resume his duties as PM.

So what happened? Unlike much of the MSM, this blog is more than willing to take a critical look at what it publishes, make clarifications/corrections (as required), and not bury them on page A33.

Here's what we know: in the late morning hours of today (Israel time) senior government officials were told that Sharon had expired, and that an announcement of his death would follow in a couple of hours. Clearly, that announcement never came. There are a number of possible explanations for that report: bad information (the most likely culprit); the hope of Sharon's family and supporters that he can somehow survive; a refusal by family members to discontinue heroic, life-sustaining measures, or (perhaps) a combination of these factors.

In a voliatle region like the Middle East, reliable information on gravely ill leaders is sometimes difficult to come by. Death notices typically come when an orderly transition has been assured, or the truth can no longer be concealed. You may recall that Jordanian doctors put out a number of misleading statements prior to the death of King Hussein; more recently, Saudi officials would not admit that King Fahd was gravely ill until the last moment, and we still don't really know what killed Yasser Arafat. While I have no reason to doubt the veracity of Israeli doctors treating Mr. Sharon, it is clear that his condition is grave, and his chances for survival are dim, at best. And, if Sharon expires, we will find out only when the Israeli government is prepared to tell us.

8:24 amPST/5 Jan 06

Still hearing that senior Israeli officials have been informed of Sharon's death. Initially, it was believed that an official announcement would be made within a couple of hours. So far, there has been no official word from the Israeli government.


Senior Israeli officials at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem are reporting that PM Ariel Sharon died a short time ago. An official announcement is expected shortly. Details to follow....

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