Doctors rejected turning off Mandela life support: Friend

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Mr Nelson Mandela's doctors have rejected the idea of turning off the ailing icon's life support unless he suffers massive organ failure, a close family friend told AFP on Friday.

Mr Denis Goldberg - an anti-apartheid activist who has been Mr Mandela's friend for more than half a century - said the issue of turning off life support was discussed and ultimately dismissed.

"I was told the matter had been raised and the doctors said they would only consider such a situation if there was a genuine state of organ failure," Mr Goldberg said.

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

The 80-year-old Goldberg was convicted along with Mr Mandela in 1964 for their fight against white-minority rule.

He visited the former president in hospital on Monday.

A court document filed by a lawyer for Mr Mandela's family nine days ago stated the 94-year-old was "assisted in breathing by a life support machine."

"The Mandela family have been advised by the medical practitioners that his life support machine should be switched off," the court filing read.

"Rather than prolonging his suffering, the Mandela family is exploring this option as a very real probability."

The document - which was designed to press a court to urgently settle a family row over the remains of Mr Mandela's children - also stated that Mr Mandela was "in a permanent vegetative state."

South Africa's presidency has stated that is not now the case, but has refused to give further details of his condition, citing the need to respect Mr Mandela's privacy.

Mr Mandela was rushed to hospital on June 8 with a recurring respiratory infection.