DOCTORS treating Michael Schumacher have abandoned their attempt to bring him out of a coma seven weeks after he suffered a blow to the head in an off-piste skiing accident.
No reason was given for the decision to call off the process but it follows reports a fortnight ago that the Formula One star had contracted pneumonia while in intensive care in the University Hospital of Grenoble in France.
Schumacher's family have not confirmed the latest claim, made in the German magazine Focus, but admitted in a statement ten days ago that “we are aware the wake up phase can take a long time”.
Doctors put the 45-year-old into an induced coma after the accident on December 29 to reduce brain swelling and give him a better chance of recovery.
Focus said that the attempt to bring him round was called off last week, leading brain injury experts to fear that Schumacher's chances of making a full recovery had decreased.
“It is generally accepted that the longer the period of the coma or reduced state of consciousness, the less likely it is to have a good longer term prognosis,” said Luke Gregg, a spokesman for Headway, the brain injury charity.
“This is particularly if they have tried to rouse the patient or bring them out of an induced coma and this has not happened.
“If a patient has been in a coma for seven weeks, I think it would be very unrealistic to suggest they will make a full recovery and be the exact same person they were before. But where there is life, there is hope, and we know there can be life after brain injury.”
Mr Gregg blamed Hollywood for giving people false expectations of a quick recovery from a coma.
“In the movies people wake up and say 'Hi, I'm back', but waking from a coma can take weeks,” he said.
“Put simply, the effects of brain injury can be devastating and last a lifetime. It can change every aspect of you: walking, talking, thinking and feeling.”
Only after 12 months without responding would a patient be diagnosed as being in an irreversible persistent vegetative state, he added.
The family issued a statement last Thursday that both they and Schumacher were drawing strength from the support of his fans and were determined not to give up.
“We are deeply touched by all the messages to get well soon for Michael which still are being sent from all over the world,” they said.
“This incredible support gives us and him strength.”
News of the setback comes after Felipe Massa, a friend and former F1 colleague, said he detected signs that Schumacher's lips moved when he spoke to him on a recent hospital visit.
“He was sleeping but looking quite normal — I think he even reacted a bit,” Massa said on Saturday.