Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in Washington, D.C. on July 25, 2012.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in Washington, D.C. on July 25, 2012.



Sandra Day O’Connor announced Tuesday that she has been diagnosed with dementia that is “probably Alzheimer’s disease,” and this is one more service she has rendered her country.

Millions of Americans know the special pain of a loved one with dementia, and tens of millions more will in future decades. It can be traumatic to admit even to close relatives, much less to the world, that you are suffering from this terrible affliction. To see the famous jurist, the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, bravely face such a trial will no doubt help others do the same.

The 88-year old Justice endured the burden of being a caretaker for her late husband John during his bout with Alzheimer’s, so she knows what is to come. Justice O’Connor said she will now retire from public life, in which she has been notably active since her retirement from the High Court in 2006. She has advocated for better civics education and against elections for judges, including on these pages.

Other famous Americans—former President Ronald Reagan and actor Charlton Heston—also told the world of their Alzheimer’s, and perhaps such public witness will spur some young geniuses to find the cure.


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