Sharon May Come Off Respirator

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's breathing is improving and he may soon be disconnected from a respirator, an official said Friday.

Sharon, 77, has been unconscious at Hadassah Hospital since suffering a devastating stroke Jan. 4. He has shown little progress after undergoing three brain operations, and outside experts say his failure to regain consciousness bodes poorly for his recovery prospects.

The Yediot Ahronot newspaper quoted unidentified doctors at Hadassah as saying Sharon's condition has improved slightly and that he may no longer need the respirator.

Raanan Gissin, a Sharon adviser, said doctors are considering taking him off the respirator this weekend, but a final decision has not been made.

"They (the doctors) say it is possible they will do it," Gissin said. "They are considering doing it. Whether they will or not is up to them. There is an intention."

Yediot quoted an unidentified doctor as saying that Sharon hardly needs the respirator "based on the amount of breaths, their depth and volume of oxygen." Ten days ago, Sharon was relying almost exclusively on the machine to breathe, Yediot reported.

Hadassah spokesman Ron Krumer declined comment on the report.

Sharon remained in critical but stable condition Friday.