A Michigan wife has defended her decision to stay married to her husband who has Alzheimer’s in light of Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson’s recent comments telling viewers that it would be justifiable to divorce a spouse who has Alzheimer’s.
Donna MacInnes of Bloomfield Hills, Mich has stood by her 84-year-old husband, John, who has been dealing with Alzheimer’s for the last six years. They have been together for 22 years. When he first starting having cognitive issues, he nearly ran her over with a golf cart.
“If Pat Robertson is saying that I should break my commitment of love and marriage in a Christian view, that’s awful,” MacInnes said.
“We don’t go off and leave someone to die. That’s not who we are ... I take care of my husband, and I am there for him,” MacInnes told journalist Kimberly Hayes Taylor for MSNBC.com.
Most Christian denominations believe adultery is the only legitimate reason for divorce and, according to the Gospel of Mark, divorcing and remarrying also is considered adultery. Evangelical Christian leaders are condemning Robertson’s quotes.
"I'm just flabbergasted," Joel Hunter, pastor of the 15,000-member Northland Church in Orlando, Fla., told ABC News. "I just don't know how anyone who is reading Scripture or is even familiar with the traditional wedding vows can come out with a statement like that."
The former Republican presidential candidate said he wouldn’t “put a guilt trip” on anyone who divorces a spouse who suffers from the illness, and added that people should get "some ethicist to give you the answer."
MacInnes said the guilt trip would be if she didn't care for her husband.
When Robertson was asked on his program whether his suggestion was consistent with the marriage vows “till death do us part,” he simply replied, “This is a kind of death.”
Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent services at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago declined to question Robertson’s remarks.
“This is a challenging, devastating and eventually fatal illness, and it affects everybody differently,” Ms. Kallmyer said. “The most important thing is that families get help.”
In the association’s experience, she said, it is rare for people to get divorced because of Alzheimer’s. But Alzheimer’s can go on for years or decades, progressively worsening.
“The decisions people make are personal,” Ms. Kallmyer said in the New York Times.