Arafat's medical files reveal cause of death, but not source of infection

Palestinian likely arrived in France too late for help

September 08, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JERUSALEM - The medical records of Yasser Arafat, which have been kept secret since his unexplained death last year at a French military hospital, show that he died from a stroke that resulted from a bleeding disorder caused by an unidentified infection.

The first independent review of the records, obtained by The New York Times, suggests that poisoning was highly unlikely and dispels a rumor that he might have died of AIDS. Nonetheless, the records show that despite extensive testing, his doctors could not determine the underlying infection.

Arafat seemed frail in his final months but not, by anyone's account, at death's door when he suddenly fell ill last October. After more than two weeks without improvement, he was airlifted to a French hospital, where he died Nov. 11. The cause of death was never announced and speculation has remained rife.

The records indicate that Arafat did not receive antibiotics until Oct. 27, 15 days after the onset of his illness, which was originally diagnosed as "a flu." That was only two days before he was transferred to the Percy Army Teaching Hospital in Clamart, outside Paris, and it was probably too late to save him, according to Israeli and American experts consulted by The Times, who agreed to review the records on condition they not be named.

His doctors in Ramallah also did not seem to recognize that he suffered from a serious blood disorder, disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC, which was never controlled and led to his death.

But even the French doctors never discovered the specific cause of the infection that led to the bleeding disorder, the records show. "It's a big puzzle," said a specialist in infectious diseases.

The records make no mention of an AIDS test, an omission the experts found bizarre. An Israeli infectious disease specialist said he would have performed the test, if only to be thorough and to refute the rumors that surrounded the case. A senior Palestinian official provided the medical records to Avi Isacharoff and Amos Harel, Israeli journalists.

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