Pat Robertson Bashed for Suggesting Leaving Alzheimer’s Spouse

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 4, 2011   |   3:06PM   |   Washington, DC

Advocates for the disabled are up in arms about comments religious broadcaster Pat Robertson made recently suggesting that a spouse was acting within Christian and Biblical principles to leave a wife afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Robertson blessed abandoning a spouse with Alzheimer’s and moving on with life, so long as custodial care is provided. He said the excuse for doing so is that Alzheimer’s is a “walking death,” and that such patients, “are gone, they’re gone!  They’re gone!” That, in Robertson’s mind, justifies the “Til death do us part” pledge most couples make on their wedding day.

“I hate Alzheimer’s…Because the person you have loved for 20, 30 or 40 years is gone. They’re gone. They’re gone! This is a kind of death…If he says she is gone, he is right, because this is like a walking death,” Robertson said.

Robertson is coming under fire from Wesley J. Smith, a noted attorney and author who strongly opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“Robertson meant that the “till death do us part” was fulfilled in such cases.  Baloney, he was actually espousing a “till sickness do us part” marriage ethic, since people want to enjoy their lives and sticking with a catastrophically ill person is such a downer,” he writes. “I once heard Rabbi Harold S. Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) say in a speech, ‘There may not always be a chance for a cure, but there is always opportunity for healing.'”

“Even at the depth of the end stage of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, catastrophic brain injury, etc–love heals.  Alas, that is a lesson that Robertson apparently skipped in pastor school,” Smith said.

Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schiavo, also had strong words for the evangelist and former presidential candidate.

“It is difficult to believe that these are the words of Pat Robertson,” he said. “How horribly insensitive and quite frankly, very dangerous these remarks potentially are. I say dangerous because, something we have been repeating since Terri’s death, is this growing prejudice that exists towards those with cognitive disabilities.”

“Indeed, it is comments like Pat Robertson’s that only do more to condition people into accepting killing as an answer to how we treat, not only those with Alzheimer’s, but all of our most vulnerable,” Schindler continued. “While it is true that caring for those with brain injuries can sometimes be very difficult, doing what is right and having compassion and respect for all human life is our only option.”