U.S. Supreme Court

O’Connor to Testify Husband’s Alzheimer's Led to Her Supreme Court Retirement

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Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will testify before a Senate committee today about her decision to retire because of her husband’s battle with Alzheimer’s.

O’Connor will testify before the Special Committee on Aging, USA Today reports. The story quotes from an advance copy of her remarks.

“I submit to you that until you have actually stared Alzheimer’s in the face … you cannot truly understand the deep sense of frustration, fear, helplessness and grief that accompany it,” O’Connor says.

O’Connor’s husband, John, who is also a lawyer, was diagnosed with the disease in 1990. As his condition worsened, she took him to the U.S. Supreme Court because he could not be left alone. Finally she decided to retire in 2006 “to find a care center for John in Phoenix.”

Many caregivers make similar life-changing decisions every day, she said. A local television station ran a story about O’Connor’s husband last November. It reported that O’Connor visits her husband at a Phoenix Alzheimer’s facility even though he no longer remembers her and has fallen in love with another woman.

O’Connor is a member of a national task force called the Alzheimer’s Study Group, which is developing a plan to address the hardships, costs and medical outlook of the disease. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is also a member.

The Senate committee will air a live webcast of the hearing, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

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