Amanda Smith, medical director of the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute in South Florida, believes that the idea of a spouse wanting to leave another due to Alzheimer’s is “bizarre.”
Smith’s comment came after television evangelist Pat Robertson added another to his extensive list of life lessons last week.
In reference to a viewer’s question about a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife developed Alzheimer’s, Robertson said, according to CNN, "I know it sounds cruel, but he should divorce her and start all over again, just make sure she has custodial care," 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.
When Robertson’s co-anchor asked about the “for better or for worse, till death do us part” section of the marriage vows, Robertson responded, “Alzheimer's is a kind of death.”
Reactions from evangelical leaders was swift and harsh. Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville told the New York Times, “This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Christ.”
Sandra Weintraub, professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Northwestern University school of medicine, said that advising spouses of Alzheimer’s sufferers to seek a divorce “strikes me as ludicrous.”
According to the Washington Post, Robertson did suggest that such a situation called for a professional ethicist to answer the question.
And Smith did not condemn Robertson. She told Tampa Bay Online that what Robertson didn't seem to understand is that people with Alzheimer's don't lose their feelings. "They have wants, they can enjoy the warmth and love of something safe and familiar,” she said.