Cause of Arafat's death remains a secret

12th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 11 (AFP) - The mystery remained over the cause of Yasser Arafat's death Thursday after French military doctors who treated the Palestinian leader said it was private information meant for his family only.

PARIS, Nov 11 (AFP) - The mystery remained over the cause of Yasser Arafat's death Thursday after French military doctors who treated the Palestinian leader said it was private information meant for his family only.

"I have no declaration to make on that subject," a spokesman for the French military's medical service, Christian Estripeau, told AFP.

"It is not up to the defence forces' health service to reveal information given to the family."

The only people in a position to lift the veil on the medical secret are Arafat's family, and above all his wife Suha, who severely restricted the release of her husband's medical information and limited bedside visits to a handful of Palestinian officials since he was airlifted to France on October 29.

Officially the 75-year-old Arafat was admitted to the hospital as a result of complications from gastric flu. "Gastric flu" was mentioned in the past to explain his health problems, in particular in 2003, when the British newspaper The Guardian reported that he had been the victim of a mild heart attack.

Suggestions that he was suffering from cancer, leukaemia or poisoning were all denied by members of Arafat's immediate circle.

The first official bulletin about his health, issued after he was admitted to the Percy military hospital outside Paris, ruled out leukaemia but referred to a low level of blood platelets and "certain anomalies in his digestive functions."

Arafat was initially taken to a unit dealing with blood disorders before being transferred on November 3, five days after admission, to an intensive care unit.

On November 4 a French medical source told AFP that Arafat was in a "very deep coma" and effectively brain dead.

The term used to designate the type of coma and the phrase "brain dead" mean in fact death, according to specialists.

The body can continue to function thanks to technological means: the patient breathes, the heart beats, vital organs continue to function.

Arafat's entourage insisted that the coma was "reversible" while the French military spoke only of a "stable" (November 5) or "stationary" (November 8) condition.

On November 9, when four Palestinian leaders visited him, Estripeau said his condition had worsened during the night and his coma had deepened.

The following days saw his death announced and then denied, lending credence to the theory that he was clinically dead but that a formal declaration was being delayed for political reasons.

"The question is how we are to announce it," a Palestinian minister said Tuesday in Ramallah.

"But he is dead, that is certain."

Early Thursday, Estripeau read a short statement saying only: "Mr Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority, died at Percy military hospital at Clamart on November 11 at 3:30 am (0230 GMT)."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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