Mubarak health drama adds to Egypt uncertainty

Wed Jun 20, 2012 6:29pm EDT
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There has been no clear statement from independent medical experts on what ails Mubarak, though state media have reported a variety of illnesses from shortage of breath to heart attacks.

A state news agency report on Tuesday that he was "clinically dead", a condition normally defined by the lack of a heartbeat and breathing and one from which patients can be revived, was followed by swift denials from military sources.

It was unclear whether at any point he reached that stage, though some sources did say he was dependent on life support.

Noting that without heart, lung or even brain function, machines can keep the body alive, Peter Openshaw, a consultant in respiratory medicine at St Mary's Hospital in London, said: "If they wished to keep him alive, with modern techniques and a good hospital, you could technically say that he is alive if you had him on completely artificial heart and lung support.

"Under conditions where doctors are doing absolutely everything they can to keep you going, it's actually quite hard to die."

For most Egyptians, the identity of their next president was a more pressing concern than the fate of their last.

"The news about Mubarak's health is all speculation. We should depend on reality. We can't keep following rumors," said Maher Eid Hemdan, a 59-year-old pensioner, in central Cairo.

"As for the elections, may the best man win."

(Additional reporting by Shaimaa Fayed in Cairo and Kate Kelland in London; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Andrew Osborn)

People sit in front of Maadi military hospital where Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak was transferred from Tora prison, on the outskirts of Cairo June 20, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh