September 16th, 2011
05:22 PM ET

Pat Robertson makes controversial Alzheimer's claims

Pat Robertson, former presidential candidate and well-known televangelist, gave advice on his TV talk show “The 700 Club" this week that doesn't sit well with some people familiar with Alzheimer's disease.

A viewer named Andreas asked about his friend, who started seeing another woman after his wife developed Alzheimer's: "He says that he should be allowed to see other people, because his wife as he knows her is gone. I’m not sure what to tell him. Please help."

Robertson acknowledged that this is a "terribly hard thing" but also said the person in question is correct. "I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her," he said.

"Isn't that the vow we take when we marry someone, that's for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer?" his co-anchor asked.

There is the vow of "till death do us part," but Alzheimer's is "a kind of death," he said.

Time.com: Pat Robertson's worst gaffes

Paul R. Wolpe, director of the Emory Center for Ethics in Atlanta, takes issue with the idea that spouses of Alzheimer's patients don't have to have any fealty to their spouses because of the disease.

"I think he misunderstands how important emotional support is to people with Alzheimer's. Except for the most extreme and close to death people with Alzheimer's, they respond to emotional context. The emotional part of their lives is the last part to go," he said.

It's extremely therapeutic in many cases for people to maintain relationships with their spouses with Alzheimer's, he said. There are situations in which a spouse will choose to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer's or start a relationship with someone else while remaining married but will continue to remain connected to the Alzheimer's patient.

Wolpe is troubled by the idea that it's OK to abandon an Alzheimer's patient because he or she is already dead.

"I think abandoning a spouse because they have Alzheimer's is unethical. Divorcing them or not divorcing them isn't an issue to me so much; it's abandonment," he said. Robertson "did not say you have any responsibility to continue to try to support them emotionally, to visit them."

Not everyone took such a hard stance on Robertson's remarks. Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent services at the Alzheimer’s Association, emphasized how stressful it is for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients to watch their loved ones in this condition, which can result in their grieving for a spouse while he or she is still alive.

As for whether Alzheimer's is a kind of death, Kallmyer said she understands that some people may see it this way but said this also raises the need for education about the disease. "That person, even in the end stages, is still a person with a full history and a life that's been lived," she said.

But it can feel like the person is slowly dying. Kallmyer and colleagues get calls from caregivers who don't know how to talk to their spouses anymore. To that, she says:

"Talk to them like you used to talk to them. Do you know a favorite song that you could sing? To continue to have those conversations, and when people in the later stages are engaged with like that, there is a reaction, people react, and they can benefit from that," she said.

If you have a question or need support, call the Alzheimer's Association's 24-hour hot line at 1-800-272-3900.

soundoff (959 Responses)
  1. opinionguru

    Pat, you are a false teacher and need to repent for you overt sin of false teaching and hypocrisy. You are no longer a Minister and do not represent Christianity any longer. Repent and the Lord who is merciful will forgive. You are driving the unchurched away from Jesus Christ.

    September 17, 2011 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BigSlick

      He has been driving the "unchurched" away for decades... and I thank him for it and have mocked him for just as long.

      September 17, 2011 at 01:58 | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Who are you to judge? Who is anyone to judge what he should and shouldn't say? He was asked a question!!!! He replied what he thought. There's only one judge and you my friend are not it. WE all need to repent. Love thy neighbor as thy self. 🙂

      September 17, 2011 at 07:55 | Report abuse |
    • Kebos

      He's not driving the "unchurched" away entirely on his own but he is helping, for sure. Most are being driving away, or maybe better words are, avoiding it, because of the ridiculousness that is religion; all religions.

      Love thy neighbor, etc. Yeah, we get it. And we don't need religion to know that is the right way of behaving in our society and world. And stop using words like "thy". That went out of favor a few hundred years ago. Just because you use such words doesn't make it sound any more holier.

      Silly. Grow up!

      September 17, 2011 at 08:25 | Report abuse |
  2. wisdom4u2

    LMAO!! Sorry, but this guy is trying to bring Pat down, but Pat was just stating what he thinks. If people are looking at Pat as Jesus Christ, Himself, well that is their problem, not Pats'. I'm smart enough to know that Pat is getting older, maybe a little senile and saying things that I don't agree with, but he's NOT God, Hellooooo!!! Go on Pat, say whatever the hell you want!!!

    September 17, 2011 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. wisdom4u2

    Two thumbs up for Pat!!! Senile and all!!!

    September 17, 2011 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bob


    September 17, 2011 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bat Party

      Rapture Occurs: Evangelicals Left Behind!
      See full story at http://www.thebatparty.blogspot.com

      September 17, 2011 at 05:17 | Report abuse |
  5. Mike Buck

    Sounds like Pat's wife has permission to dump him!

    September 17, 2011 at 01:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TB

      ...and she should leave him in Casey Anthony's custody.

      September 17, 2011 at 07:19 | Report abuse |
  6. D-Nice

    Pat Robertson is a vile man who surely has a place in hell reserved for him.

    September 17, 2011 at 01:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve from LA

      Word... Nuff said.

      September 17, 2011 at 02:43 | Report abuse |
  7. Peter Q Wolfe

    I find this opinion of Mr. Robertson as personally offensive to the extreme saying they are dead mentally equates to physical death. Then, are mentally, psychological and other disabled people dead by that definiton? The problem in America is that we abandon our elders and our disabled people and don't care about them thinking that money will solve all problems. Wam, again Mr. Robertson is wrong with probably no experience in dealing with victims of this disease his ignorance shows us that. I personally have known someone suffering from this disease and they thought that I was their son or grandson and it is truly sad but we must take care of them caue it one day could be you.Perhaps Mr. Robertson is having some of that disease and forgeting his christian ethics.

    September 17, 2011 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. SFChristine

    Wow! What a loving and compassionate man! Simply horrible!

    September 17, 2011 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. glsp

    Adultery is sin however you want to look at it. Would he have advised a woman to do the same? No. Nine times out of ten preachers will side with a man no matter what. God has never condoned adultery and is not doing so today neither does He authorize anyone to condone it. Mr. Robertson is not that senile in my opinion.

    September 17, 2011 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brendalove

      That's because the Bible preaches total subserviance to a man – women are nothing except in terms of how they honor their man. *rolls eyes*

      September 17, 2011 at 08:02 | Report abuse |
  10. lizzy10

    I have always said that Alzhiemers is a cruel disease, it takes a person from you twice. Once when they no longer recognize you and then when they die. That being said, I would never say it was ok to walk away from that person after the first time, since I really believe in those silly vows "in sickness and in health". Pat Robertson is truly the weirdest Christian out there-and I do mean OUT THERE. I do wonder if the person seeking a divorce was a woman and the sick person a male, would Pat be so quick to recommend divorce.

    September 17, 2011 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • glsp

      The Bible teaches totally living within God's will – not a man's. Women are to honor their husbands as the husband is to honor and respect his wife. I would venture to say that Pat was answering a question of a man who had already made his mind up that he was going to run around on his wife and nobody was going to tell him any different. Regardless there won't be any excuse on judgement day. All Christians don't listen to lies promulgated by others who condone sin.

      September 17, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
  11. Debbie

    I am shocked by Pat's answer. Commitment is commitment no matter what kind of diseases we develop. Based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, I see no justification for a spouse to divorce a partner who has Alzheimers. I think Pat Robinson needs to step down. He is too elderly, and not thinking Biblically due to his own age related weaknesses (seen him do this with other questions asked on the show) to properly host the 700 Club at this point.

    September 17, 2011 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DCW

      Debbie, maybe you've forgotten the afflicted spouse has an obligation to their healthy spouse. Those vows go both ways. Each spouse is committing to the relationship not just during the other spouse's health/sickness, etc, but THEIR OWN. Sickness or other situations do not relieve either spouse from performing their vows. Even if it's not by choice that they can't, they should still want to their spouse to live a full life. It's not all about the afflicted. I've seen entire families destroyed by these unrealistic expectations. Sacrifice works both ways

      September 17, 2011 at 03:02 | Report abuse |
  12. Steve from LA

    Once again good ol' Pat is "keepin' it real" like only he can. Dear Pat: your hypocritical comments that get headlines gives most of us who never post in a blog the courage to do so. Don't worry my man – we won't abondon you now that Glenn Beck has become irrelevant. Please speak again real soon – our fingers are poised and ready at the keyboard when you are!

    September 17, 2011 at 02:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. logtaads

    Let me start by pointing out that a great many people no longer use traditional vows. We have become a me, me, me, society. That being the case, it is no wonder why some of the folks commenting support Pat's views.

    However, despite the fact that I do not understand Alzheimers I would hope that I would have the strength to stand by and take care of my wife if she was ever struck by it and I would hope she would do the same for me.

    Unlike so many today my wife and I did promise to love and care for each other in sickness and in health until death do us part.

    September 17, 2011 at 02:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. happen

    this is possibly the first intelligent thing the man has said

    September 17, 2011 at 02:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sparky

      you're a fvcking insect just like he is then

      September 17, 2011 at 02:39 | Report abuse |
    • mebakeoven

      Absolutely! No sense in wasting your life if you wife has alzheimer's. Just ask youself, what would your wife do if it were the other way around? Divorce you so that she could take care of her needs.

      September 17, 2011 at 07:03 | Report abuse |
  15. Keri Aronson

    That is the most unchristian, ungodly nonsense I have ever heard. Thank You Jesus for giving me a loving Christian mother, that will never abandon my father.

    September 17, 2011 at 02:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. KatranM

    Why do pro-life people so often feel compelled to define and decide who is alive or dead based on definitions they find most convenient?

    September 17, 2011 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Mrs. Mq

    No person who believes in God could instruct anyone to divorce their spouse with Alzheimers. The 700 Club should be cancelled, immediately. It is no longer a christian values show if a host preaches/instructs listeners/followers to go against their marriage vows and God. My grandfather had Alzheimers. His memory came and went and came back again. He most certainly didn't remember all of his 10 grandchildren. But, he always knew his wife. Perhaps, Pat Robertson has Alzheimers?

    September 17, 2011 at 02:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Virologist

      Pat Robertson is a vile man who does not represent the teachings of Christ. I'm shocked it has taken his recent comments for many of the "Christians" on this forum to realize that. "If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen" (1 Jn 4:20). This man has shown a consistent inability to love others and is only filled with hate. Instead of loving and trying to bring non-Christians to Christ, this man fights a "culture war" against them and wishes for their destruction.

      September 17, 2011 at 06:46 | Report abuse |
    • PKSNC

      I do not believe in God at this current time in my life but I do believe in my marriage and my wife who is a "good christian." I could never leave my wife even if she did develop this horrible disease. The choice to do this is not religion based, it is based on love and trust between two people who took their vows in front of family and friends and choose to uphold those vows. Morals and choosing the right thing to do comes from within me, not from a holy book or listening to a preacher. Thanks for letting me share my opinion, have a great Saturday everyone.

      September 17, 2011 at 08:03 | Report abuse |
  18. sparky

    Jerry Fvckwell used to say similar $h it and he went out face down @$$ up in his tightie whities........This self rightious insect parasite will go out no more dignified I promise

    September 17, 2011 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply


    September 17, 2011 at 02:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Steve

    Who cares what a loser says? I rather take advice from a homeless guy trying to earn a living by panhandling, because that's what this Pat Robertson does, just in disguise.

    September 17, 2011 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. craig

    This sounds a lot like the Nazi proposition that any Aryan married to a Jew should just divorce them, since they are racially unacceptable. They weren't before, but now they are, so things have changed and you can just...move on. Right! So, if life begins at conception, then death can be whenever I say...which means when it's no longer convenient to have you around. Jeebus, what a hypocrite!

    September 17, 2011 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. The Pope

    Next he's going to say we should just pray Alzhiemer's away. What a dilwad.

    September 17, 2011 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Connie

    Simple explanation for his ramblings...he has dementia...

    September 17, 2011 at 03:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ozzi

      I wonder about that as well.

      September 17, 2011 at 08:01 | Report abuse |
  24. PDX Chris

    When Pat has declared that "From a biological standpoint, there is absolutely no basis for believing that human life begins at any time other than conception." (See "Saving the Unborn - Spiritual Life in God", http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/biblestudyandtheology/perspectives/pat%27s_perspective_abortion.aspx). He now states, that "Alzheimer's is 'a kind of death,'" as an "out" for the "until death do we part" part of marriage. How can he use biology as the basis for the beginning of life while abandoning that reasoning for when life ends?

    Alzheimer's is difficult for all who are involved. People see their loved ones fade away from the disease until one day they can no longer hang on. The idea Pat could give an off-cuff religious justification to abandoning a spouse in their last days is abhorrent.

    September 17, 2011 at 03:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Joshua

    Obvious to reality based people that PAT ROBERTSON IS A NUT. He's come out with many delusional statements over the years. He's anything but Christian, unfortunately he's a mentally ill and delusional person. His so called Club is a haven for his psychologically needy and delusional followers.

    September 17, 2011 at 03:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. donna

    Wow.....what a Christian !!!!!
    Throw the family member under the bus is basically what he's saying....
    Talk about not being kind -patient – loving and taking one's vows to heart
    Hiprocrite !!!

    September 17, 2011 at 03:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Stacey

    As someone who claims to teach Christianity, I would expect that Robertson would know his Bible inside and out. Those who are as strict as he is would know that a marriage ends in two ways (scripturally speaking): through adultery and through death (Matt 5:31, 32; Matt 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12). Alzheimers Disease is just that, a disease. The typical Christian marriage vow does not include "To disease do us part" or "To Alzheimers do us part."

    Mind you... this is the same person who said that the devastating earthquake in Haiti was because of a pact with the devil the Haitians made to be free of French rule. Consider the source!

    September 17, 2011 at 03:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. jiggles-n-wiggles

    WHAAT!! This coot is still alive?? Who in their right mind still watches his show?
    This charlatan just upgraded to a bigger place in hell.

    September 17, 2011 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ozzi

      Pat Robertson is taking over hell.

      September 17, 2011 at 08:02 | Report abuse |
  29. Steve-from-Mississippi

    My father took care of my mother when she had Alzheimer's. Both my father and mother took their marriage vows very seriously. This buffoon, Pat Robertson, should be ashamed of his comments this week. With regards to the Christian thing to do, I will follow the lead of my father, who stayed with my mother until death separated them. Pat Robertson's credentials as a moral leader are morally deficient.

    September 17, 2011 at 04:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Woody

    I have spent years watching a man die of this and it is one of the hardest things to watch happen . If it happened to me I would only hope I was in a state where I could quietly be put to rest . It is wrong to preach to people than abandon the one you married . However allowing a human to suffer the way I had to watch this person suffer is also inhumane . I only blame him for not practicing what he preaches . But I also blame society for wanting to allow people to suffer for years on end when we are but a body with no mind . Life ends when the mind is gone !

    September 17, 2011 at 04:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Christianna

    It's a difficult issue. The same case as having the spouse imprisoned for life who claims innocence. I believe people with un-functioning or unreachable spouses must stay single for the rest of life. It's always more biblical and is better that way. But people's strength is different. If the loneliness and desolation is unbearable, one needs to be able to remarry in such cases. Christians should always pray and ask God's guidance and His help first and constantly. The strength to do what is right really comes from Him and knowing the sound doctrines. In my case, trusting God and knowing the sound doctrines practically expel wrong kind of desires. It is very painful and many times full of sorrows, but never beyond forbearance. God's grace is always sufficient in real life. I'm confident by now I can go to the end carrying my sorrow all the way in Jesus without losing mind. And I think God trained me since youth for my future pains. He also provided me rich happiness that's beyond comparison accompanying my deep sorrows. Things are not what they seem to be – a human life, a Christian life. Utmost meaningful.

    September 17, 2011 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Christianna

    To Christians alone: Suffering for the sake of Christ is the highest honor. Loneliness is a bitter crucifixion but God can sustain you through anything in this universe if you only let Him. Don't jump onto an easy road applying common sense immediately. Wait, pray, read the Bible, ask Him for guidance and help and wait on Him more.

    September 17, 2011 at 05:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Steve

    Does death til you part mean anything? Does God have anything to do with marriage? This guy is a nut job.

    September 17, 2011 at 05:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. NoGr8rH8r

    Who cares what Pat Robertson says? He's been a few sandwiches short of a picnic for some time.

    September 17, 2011 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Chedar

    Senile? Looks more like Akzheimer.

    September 17, 2011 at 05:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Debbie

    For some reason I doubt even Pat Robertson would have given the same response if the HUSBAND had Alzheimer's and the WIFE was asking about dating.

    September 17, 2011 at 05:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ozzi

      Good point.

      September 17, 2011 at 08:03 | Report abuse |
  37. Mark Taylor

    A liar and a phony who consistently demonstrates he has totally missed the message that Jesus Christ brought to earth. An embarrassment to decent people everywhere. The Kingdom of God is among us and I sure don't see Pat Robertson present. Oh look, there he is – right over there, crawling into a smoldering pit (speaking figuratively for those who attack anything remotely spiritual or Christian on this site).

    September 17, 2011 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Woody

    Would it not be better to spend our time learning and finding a cure before it happens to us ? Its always the other person until one day disease finds us ! We are but mammals on a planet and there is no miracle cure .... Man makes the medicine that keeps us alive . Fact is the human body is designed to last 50 years . In the 1500's life expectancy was but 37 years and in the 40's you were lucky if you made it to 49 . We push the limits , but the outcome sometimes can be worse than trying to find a cure . Life is only worth living if we can feel the warmth of the sun and know its there . The hardest thing is to let go ! But at some point and time we have no choice . Dying is a part of living !

    September 17, 2011 at 06:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. sim

    Was Pat among those cheering during the Republican debates when Ron Paul (the physician and social Darwinist) suggested that those without insurance should die? I bet he was. Makes one wonder just how Jebus is working inside his little Howdy Doody brain. If you're cheering for the death of the poor, don't be insulted when the poor suggest that we eat the rich. I hear Kochs cook up real nice.

    September 17, 2011 at 06:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. JustPlainJoe

    Just his life long hypocritical self, now written LARGE.

    September 17, 2011 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. djb

    I'm sorry, but this old goat needs to be put out to pasture. Actually, it should have happened years ago!

    September 17, 2011 at 07:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. femi

    Pat,I thought one must keep marriage vows till one's dying days! " for better for worse" marriage vows are powerful covenants one must break till death do them part! watch your new doctrine,...

    September 17, 2011 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Bryan Hupperts

    Kindly shut up. This was monsterous.

    September 17, 2011 at 07:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Bill

    How's that whole Christian thing working out for you, Pat?

    September 17, 2011 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Waco

    He has been exploiting the elderly with fear for decades. It's monstrous what he has done in the name of God.

    September 17, 2011 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Brendalove

    Wow. Just wow.

    September 17, 2011 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply

    I Can't believe this charlatan still has a TV show, what's worse, this article indicates he has an "audience"......Worst job on earth, being the news reporter that has to actually watch this excrement!

    September 17, 2011 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. abby1

    This is absolutely shameful. He said Alzheimer's is just like a death. Next, he will be advocating that people with Alzheimer's should be euthanized. Between this comment and the GOP/Tea Party debate audience enthusiastically screaming let him die (regarding an uninsured person), these conservative Christians have brought shame to the religion.

    September 17, 2011 at 08:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Kebos

    Robertson is less a man that most I know. A pathetic, wretched human being who hides behind is phony claims of god and his close relationship to his god. While he laughs all the way to the bank.

    There is no god and there is no afterlife. But if there was, this guy would be thrown into the lake of fire by god quicker and sooner then most. Of this I am certain.

    September 17, 2011 at 08:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Steevn

    This man has proved over and over again by making insane comments that he should not be taken seriously. He only desires to excite the little minds of his "followers" so they will continue the money stream.
    Should his wife leave him if that happens to them? Oh wait, their rich (why?) and he would have appropriate care.... never mind!

    September 17, 2011 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Leave a Reply to Orange Pekoe


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.