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'Doctors rejected to turn off Mandela's life support'

July 06, 2013 17:42 IST

Nelson Mandela's doctors have dismissed the idea of switching off the ailing anti-apartheid icon's life support until there was a genuine state of organ failure, a close friend of the South African former president has said.

Denis Goldberg, a friend of Mandela for more than five decades, told the weekly City Press that the matter of switching off the life support had been discussed and dismissed. "I was told that the doctors said they would only consider such a situation if there was a genuine state of organ failure," Goldberg said, as the 94-year-old leader spent nearly one month in the hospital.

"Since that hasn't occurred, they were quite prepared to go on stabilising him until he recovers," he added.

Confirming that Mandela was breathing with assistance from machines, Goldberg told the weekly: "But he responds to voices and tries to talk, yet mumbles. He was dozing when I got there. I spoke and told him who I was and he opened his eyes and looked at me. I spoke to him for about 10 minutes and he responded positively to what I was saying.” "He did not answer because he can't talk, with the pipe in his throat, but he was moving his jaw as if he wanted to talk."

Mandela, who turns 95 on July 18, was hospitalised at a Pretoria hospital on June 8 with a recurring lung infection.

Court paper filed earlier this week in a bitter feud between Mandela family members cited Mandela's health as being in a "permanent vegetative state", but this was rejected by the presidency, which said Mandela remained in a critical but stable condition.

The court document had said that Mandela's doctors advised his family to turn off the ailing icon's life-support machines.

The document was designed to press a court to urgently settle a family row over the remains of Mandela's children over

After a heated court battle, 15 Mandela relatives, including his three daughters and wife Graca Machel, won a court order to rebury the remains of his three deceased children on Wednesday. The graves had been removed from there to the neighbouring Mvezu village by his grandson Mandla Mandela two years ago, allegedly secretly and without the permission of other family members.

As the ugly squabble rolled out in public with allegations of marital infidelity, illegitimate children and greed for Mandela's estate, the office of President Jacob Zuma intervened for the first time, calling on the family to resolve their internal problems. Meanwhile, people across the country continued to organise prayer services for the global icon's good health.

Mandela had a long history of lung problems, dating back to the time when he was a political prisoner on Robben Island during apartheid. While in jail he contracted tuberculosis. He is revered for leading the fight against white minority rule in the African country and then preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.

Mandela served as the country's president from 1994 to 1999. He left power after five years as president. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He retired from public life in 2004 and has not been seen in public since the football World Cup finals in 2010.

More updates on Nelson Mandela

Fakir Hassen in Johannesburg