Pat Robertson says Divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justifiable – Is It?

Pat Robertson has an incredible ability to “step where it smells” (as they say in some parts of the country), and, he has done it once again (see article link below*).  Robertson has taken the position that someone with a spouse diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease should divorce the spouse and move on.  I have been asked to comment on his statements and so I thought I would share a few thoughts.

“Pat Robertson: Divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justifiable: Asked about marriage vows to stay together ’til death do us part,’ he says: ‘This is a kind of death’.” <Continue reading>

First, I think that Pat Robertson raises an important and difficult issue for discussion.  He is not the first one to speak of this.  Barry Peterson wrote the book, Jan’s Story: Love lost to the long goodbye of Alzheimer’s, and describes his choice to enter into a partnered relationship while still being married to Jan, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  It is an uncomfortable book in many ways but Peterson pleads that he not be judged until one has walked in his shoes.  Peterson, however, did not divorce Jan and still takes care of her.  Therein lies the difference between Peterson and Robertson.

The Church and culture need to discuss this issue.  For me, the discussion raised by Robertson and Peterson has raised the very difficult issue of what exactly is death?  Is death only physical?  Both Peterson and Robertson would argue that in every way, except physical, Jan is dead.  Is it adultery to enter into a partnered relationship while one’s spouse declines into the darkness of Alzheimer’s Disease?  I believe that we need to explore the phrase “until death do us part” and discuss its application to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease is very difficult for everyone impacted.  Our culture has developed the practice of marginalizing the population affected by Alzheimer’s Disease because it is so uncomfortable to watch.  Jesus comes for the marginalized. We must begin to have the discussions in a reasonable, rational and prayerful way.The trouble with divorce, in this situation, is health care.  If one abandons one’s Alzheimer’s Diseased spouse through divorce, health care is lost and the person becomes the custodian of the state.  This action also raises moral issues.  We all need to pray and talk.

So, on September 21, 2011 — WEAR PURPLE — to raise consciousness about Alzheimer’s Disease and if you live in the Twin Cities join us for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, September 24.

Each year, the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota plans several special events to support the Association’s programs and services, and also receives donations generated by friends of the Association who hold events to benefit the Association.

Visit here for more information about the event.

*Source: MSNBC.com

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