Should You Divorce Someone with Alzheimer’s?

Weeks ago, Pat Robertson said something that shocked me (even for Pat).  He said that it was acceptable for someone to divorce his or her spouse if they developed Alzheimer’s since it was a “kind of death.”  It flabbergasted me.  Not only was it an offense to marriage, it was an offense to the gospel.

And it also reminded me of another Robertson that knew something about this topic.

Robertson McQuilken was experiencing his dreams. Serving as President of the Columbia International University, he was training and equipping ministers that were serving all over the world. When his wife, Muriel, displayed signs of Alzheimer’s Disease, Robertson had a choice to make. Many encouraged him to send Muriel to a home because he really could not help her. That way, he could continue to follow God and the calling on his life. At night, he would often get her ready for bed to discover that her bloodied feet had traveled back and forth the road to the school anxious to be reunited with him.

His choice was simple. The following is some of what McQuilken stated in his resignation speech to the school:


“Muriel now, in the last couple of months, seems to be almost happy when with me, and almost never happy when not with me. In fact, she seems to feel trapped, becomes very fearful, sometimes almost terror, and when she can’t get to me there can be anger. She’s in distress. But when I’m with her she’s happy and contented, and so I must be with her at all times. And you see, it’s not only that I promised in sickness and in health, ‘till death do us part, and I’m a man of my word…It’s the only fair thing. She sacrifices for me for forty years, to make my life possible…so if I cared for her for forty years, I’d still be in debt…It’s not that I have to. It’s that I get to. I love her very dearly, and you can tell it’s not easy to talk about. She’s a delight. And it’s a great honor to care for such a wonderful person.”

How different is his response from so many men today.  How refreshing it is compared to Pat’s assessment of the situation by getting rid of a “nuisance.”

The “easiest” decision would have been for him to leave her and go back to “ministry.”  His example leaves me challenged, inspired, and gracious.

How committed are you to your spouse?  Is your spouse aware of your commitment?  For better, for worse, in sickness, and in health, till death do us part.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.

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1 Comment

  1. Greg Deal

    This is so touching, beautiful and inspiring to me personally. Thank you for posting this.

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