Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's renal failure should come as no surprise, said a top Israeli internist – and at his age, there is virtually nothing that can be done to save him. According to Professor Moti Ravid of the Ma'ayanei Hayeshu'a Hospital in Bnei Brak, the urinary system failure that Sharon is experiencing means certain death at this point.
Sharon has been in a coma for nearly eight years, bedridden and unable to move. “Renal failure is typical for people like this who have been laying down for a long time. It is usually caused by poisons in the blood system, kidney stones, or an artery blockage. The bottom line is, his kidneys are not functioning.”
Ravid said that once that happens, the body quickly fills with destructive chemicals and elements. “Waste piles up and elements get into the bloodstream, spreading poisonous chemicals to the rest of the body,” he said. “Other systems are quickly affected, as the body cannot rid itself of the poison, which continues to pile up. The heart is eventually affected, and blood pressure begins swinging wildly. If the patient is still conscious they are likely to slip into a coma at this point.”
Renal failure is treatable in two ways – through a kidney transplant, or through dialysis. Neither option is practical in Sharon's case, Ravid said. He is too fragile to undergo a transplant, even if a suitable kidney could be found, and there is little point in hooking him up to a dialysis machine.
“Theoretically it could be done, but we are talking about an 85 year old man who is in a coma. It's not something you would logically do, and from an ethical point of view, extending the life of an individual in such condition is questionable as well. It's true that he has been observed having brain activity, but that is very far from his being able to feel pain or be aware of his situation,” said Ravid.
Technically, Ravid said, Sharon has survived far longer than would be expected for an individual in his condition. Sharon has received a great deal of treatment over the years to keep him functioning – treatment, said Ravid, that he does not think ordinary Israelis would get.
“The cost to the state for his treatment has been between NIS 30 and 40 million (over $10 million),” said Ravid. “I do not believe he would have gotten this kind of treatment if he had not been prime minister. If we could ask him what he wants I am sure he would say that he would prefer to be allowed to die. But it was his sons' decision, as Sharon himself was unavailable for consultation.”