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Doctor: Sharon's Life Still In Danger

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon attends the weekly cabinet meeting on December 4, 2005 in Jerusalem, Israel. Sharon recently left the Likud Party to found a new centrist political party Kadima.
Getty Images/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's life remains in danger, despite his continued improvement following a massive stroke, one of his doctor's said Wednesday.

"The prime minister's life is still in danger. He suffered a serious stroke, period," Dr. Jose Cohen, one of Sharon's neurosurgeons, told Israel TV. "Until we have passed a few more stages we are still very cautious, We know that every day, although we are getting further out of danger, we are still in danger."

Doctors had said on Tuesday that Sharon was out of immediate danger, but Cohen appeared to be more cautious in his assessment.

When asked if Sharon could die he responded: "The further away we get from the first stroke the further we get from that possibility."

Cohen also said that doctors were heartened by movement that Sharon made on his left side, which might mean that the right side of Sharon's brain was not as damaged as they thought. That movement was significant because Sharon's suffered severe bleeding on the right side of his brain, which controls the left side of the body.

"We expected a serious weakening on the left side of the body, but we were surprised to see him move his left side. That means that maybe the damage on the right side of the brain is not quite as bad as we thought at first," he said.

On Wednesday, a week after he suffered the stroke, doctors expected to stop giving him the last of the sedatives that have kept him in a coma — a key step toward determining the extent of the damage. Israel Radio said it would take about 36 hours for the drugs to exit his system completely.

But Dr. Yair Birenboim, a senior official at Hadassah's Ein Kerem Hospital where Sharon is hospitalized, said the process could be reversed at any point.

"You can stop them for a few hours, get an idea of what is happening and of course immediately retransmit them," he told Army Radio. "These are routine things that happen with patients."

Doctors began decreasing the sedatives Monday, and Sharon started breathing on his own and moved his right arm and leg slightly in response to pain stimulation.

"I pinched Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on his right hand, and he responded with a clear and significant movement in an attempt to move his hand away from the source of the pain," Sharon's chief surgeon, Dr. Felix Umansky, was quoted as saying in the Yediot Ahronot daily Wednesday.

Doctors tried a number of ways to provoke a response from Sharon. His sons spoke to him, resulting in a slight increase in his blood pressure. And CBS News correspondent Robert Berger reports Sharon's favorite dish, savory lamb shawarma sliced off a skewer, was brought into his hospital room, in the hopes his legendary appetite would help bring him out of the coma.

Sharon remained in critical but stable condition and had a decent chance of surviving, said Dr. Yoram Weiss, one of Sharon's anesthesiologists. "More metaphorically speaking, we have backed off five yards from the edge of the cliff," he said.

A final assessment would have to wait until the sedatives completely wear off, said Weiss. Then a determination would have to be made about whether Sharon can one day return to his post or a replacement must be named.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com