Schumacher out of hospital but is 'cynical' update misleading?
Formula 1 legend to continue rehabilitation in Switzerland, but his condition may not have changed
The news that Michael Schumacher has emerged from a coma and left the hospital in Grenoble where he has been treated for the past six months has been greeted with delight in many quarters, but his fans have been warned that the announcement could be a "cynical" move designed to create a false impression that his condition is improving.
The unexpected news of his condition came in a statement from Schumacher's family, delivered by his agent Sabine Kehm on Monday.
Schumacher has been taken to a clinic in Switzerland "to continue his long phase of rehabilitation", said Kehm. "He is no longer in a coma."
She also reitereated the family's plea for privacy, stating "we ask for your understanding that his further rehabilitation should take place outside of the public". But she also thanked the F1 legend's fans for their support. "You have certainly helped him," she said.
Reports in France said his treatment would continue at a specialist unit at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne in Switzerland.
Schumacher has been in a coma since he hit his head on a rock while skiing off-piste at the Alpine resort of Meribel.
He was placed in an induced coma after the accident, but doctors began reducing the sedatives in a bid to bring him round at the end of January.
There was little news of his condition until April, when his family said the seven-time F1 champion had begun showing "moments of consciousness and awakening".
According to German newspaper Bild he can now respond to voices and physical touch. "He can communicate with his environment, especially his wife Corinna and his children," says the paper, which adds that he "no longer needs the help of specialists in Grenoble".
However, former F1 doctor Gary Hartstein, who has regularly blogged on Schumacher's condition, says the announcement that Schumacher is no longer in a coma is not news, as that has been the case since April. He is, and almost certainly remains, says Hartstein, in a "minimally conscious state".
He adds that the statement "says nothing about whether or not Michael is breathing spontaneously" and even claims that it uses "cynical" language to "convey an impression that is almost certainly false".
The "triumphal air" of the statement leaves "a bad taste", says Hartstein, as it actually confirms that he is making little or no progress.