Pat Robertson is Dead Wrong

My OpEd in today’s Chicago Tribune:

A person with Alzheimer’s is not “kind of” dead. Not by a long shot. And televangelist Pat Robertson should know better than to speak flippantly from a position of authority on a matter that is complicated, nuanced and deeply personal.

As we learned through interviews with many couples, as well as with medical, spiritual, legal, rehabilitation and psychological experts, while writing “In Sickness As In Health: Real Couples and the Effects of Illness on Their Relationships,” couples find their way to deal with illnesses and catastrophic injuries.

We know what we are talking about when we say Robertson should beware of trying to make blanket statements without the benefit of knowing all the facts and issues. We have found that dealing with illness is a deeply intimate part of the couple relationship. What is right for one couple may be completely wrong for another.

When illness invades the couple relationship, partners ask themselves and each other some really hard questions: “What do I want to do for this person whom I have loved for many years?” “How much of my life do I give up to take care of my beloved?” “How do I sit by my beloved’s side and watch her suffer?”

Robertson’s assertion that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justified because she is “gone” is more than simply callous and insulting to anyone who has ever loved another. It goes to the heart of both morality and medical ethics. Physicians struggle every day to counsel families about the right time to cut off life support. Ethicists struggle to balance the impact of devastating disease with the persistence of the essential self.

To announce that someone is “gone” when she still has an emotional life — not to mention sensation in her skin, organs and tissues — is to dismiss her as a human being.

For those who find themselves at the intersection of lifetime love and overwhelming obligation, the right path is often painful and difficult to find. Robertson should have counseled this husband — and all partners grieving over the illness of their loved one — to seek psychological support, medical information, spiritual guidance and ultimately to look inside themselves and their relationship to determine the right thing to do. Instead he advised the husband of the ill woman to make sure the wife has custodial care before divorcing her and starting all over again.

He presumes too much.

Barbara Kivowitz, a psychotherapist in Boston, and Roanne Weisman, a science writer and author in Boston, are co-authors of the forthcoming book “In Sickness As In Health: Real Couples and the Effects of Illness on Their Relationships.”



Filed under Aging, chronic illness, mental health

9 responses to “Pat Robertson is Dead Wrong

  1. Pingback: aftermarket chainsaw parts

  2. I completely agree. My grandma is suffering from Dementia which is very similar to Alzheimer’s. My grandpa, who has always had an excellent mind and memory, passed away in August and despite my grandma’s complex Dementia, she was completely aware of what had happened. It was so difficult to watch her struggle with it. She’s perfectly fine besides that. On a side note, I’m working on marketing a personal health record called CladeHealth Tracker. It is a very cool application for iPhones and iPads that tracks your medical information so that you have it on hand at all times, in case of necessity. CladeHealth Tracker stores information on your advance directives, health insurance, family health history, various health care professionals, medication information, medical condition information, lab reports, vaccinations, procedures, and allergies. It is a very helpful application to have for anyone who’s struggling to balance various aspects of their life and not get too overwhelmed by an influx of health information. If you could help us spread the word about it, it would be much appreciated. I work as the Associate Content Manager at a biotechnology company in Lakewood, CO called Aegis Creative Communications. CladeHealth Tracker’s website is It includes a wordpress blog as well. I appreciate your insightful entries and look forward to your feedback.


  3. What a horrible and misguided thing to say. Bringing his flippant personal opinions to such a large audience is dangerous and is sure to make some people change their opinions to align with his – which is scary.


  4. Cheryl

    Alzhiemers is a type of Dementia. Dementia includes Alzhiemers (one cannot be diagnosed until death), Pick’s disease, Huntingtons, lewey body, etc…!
    Dementia is just an umbrella term (many diseases of the brain fit under dementia).


  5. Duane Sherry


    This is a good link for anyone searching for answers for Alzheimers –

    Be well,



  6. Duane Sherry


    This is a good link for anyone searching for answers for Alzheimers –

    Be well,



  7. There is truth to what you say. It gave me goosebumps. Some people need to think carefully before they open their mouth.


  8. Dementia or Any other mental disorders changes the patient’s attitude, behavior and reactions towards his/her environment. People around the patient take time to adjust with these changes, and depend upon their depth of relationship with the patient. And Surely, a patient with dementia and Alzheimer is not dead, just changed.

    I like the post very much. I want to give here a reference of Supreme Court of India’s decision recently in a case of Schizophrenia, where court has denied a husband the right to divorce his wife with schizophrenia, on the basis that disease if not curable is manageable by treatment.

    Humanity is the most necessary virtue to consider in every step of life before deciding anything.


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