South African authorities on Thursday denied reports that Nelson Mandela's doctors believe he is in a vegetative state and want him off life support, according to a statement released by the presidency.
Agence-France Press had cited papers in which Mandela's doctors reportedly warn he is in a "permanent vegetative state," but the presidency on Thursday reiterated that he "remains in a critical, but stable condition."
"The doctors deny that the former President is in a vegetative state," the statement added.
Reports of the iconic South African leader's failing health have generated widespread concern. He was hospitalized on June 8 for a lung infection but his health has quickly deteriorated.
A “Certificate of Urgency” filed by a Mandela family lawyer reportedly said relatives "have been advised by the medical practitioners that his life support machine should be switched off. Rather than prolonging his suffering, the Mandela family is exploring this option as a very real probability," according to the June 26 filing obtained by AFP.
The furor over his health gained further momentum when a family feud over Mandela family burial rites recently broke out in the open. Mlawu Tyatyeka, a specialist on the family's Xhosa roots, told The New York Daily News on Thursday that the dispute probably went public because the family fears his passing is imminent.
South African authorities have not been particularly forthcoming on Mandela, repeating that his condition is "critical but stable," according to Australia's Herald Sun.