Ariel Sharon Returns to His Ranch

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel (Arik) Sharon, 82, who has been in a coma for nearly five years, was taken to his Negev ranch early Friday morning after all the necessary arrangements were completed.

"In accordance with the family's wishes, the hospital staff is arranging the move of Ariel Sharon to Sycamore Ranch," a statement released by Sheba Medical Center read.

The former prime minister was transported by ambulance from the center in Tel Hashomer outside Tel Aviv to his 3,823 dunam (about 945 acre) Sycamore Ranch, accompanied by medical staff, a police patrol vehicle and body guards from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

Though the house has been readied with all the necessary life-support equipment, Sharon will be monitored for a few days and then returned to the medical center. This may take place several times to ensure he can receive the care he needs at home.

His two sons, Omri and Gilad, have been discussing the move with the medical staff for several years.

The team moving Sharon took every precaution to ensure privacy for the former premier and his family.

The hospital staff said it welcomed the decision and believed it would be better for Sharon "to live his life at the ranch, surrounded by his loved ones and the scenery he loved, rather than in a hospital room."

Dr. Shlomo Noi told Israel Radio on Friday it was unlikely Sharon would emerge from the coma, but the hospital staff would continue to provide support and assistance, when needed, to the family.

"The move is the result of modern medical thinking that prefers to see long-term patients treated in the community rather than in hospitals," Noi said.

The government transfers 1.6 million shekels (about $435,000) annually to the Health Ministry to cover his medical expenses.

Sharon suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage in January 2006, six months after the government evacuated nearly 10,000 residents from 21 Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip and four in northern Samaria. 

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