Forgetting and Forgotten:
Dementia and the Right to Die

By W. Lee Hansen

ISBN: 978-1-955656-55-9


My wife, Sally, suffered and died after a decade-long struggle with dementia. Her experiences retold here, along with my own as her caregiver, can help people making a similar end-of-life journey. To assist them, I propose and discuss a humane way to deal with dementia at the end of life, one that Sally believed in and would have enthusiastically endorsed for herself: the Right to Die. Because Sally could not exercise her right to die, we had to endure her traumatic final years in memory care as she struggled with her steadily worsening affliction, forgetting who she was and what gave meaning to her life, with the result that both she and I were relegated to the ranks of the forgotten. The book includes a “Tool Box” of resources to assist individuals who are seeking help and support in their caretaking endeavors. I hope this book will stimulate readers to think differently about how we die and how we should be allowed to die. 

200 page softcover


W. Lee Hansen, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor emeritus, economics, earned undergraduate and master’s degrees at UW-Madison (1950, 1955), and a Ph.D. in political economy from Johns Hopkins University (1958). He taught at UCLA, held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago, was a senior staff economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and had visiting appointments at the London School of Economics, the University of Sydney, the University of Western Australia, and Maastricht University. He became professor emeritus in 1998. His numerous awards include a Distinguished Teaching Award and the Hilldale Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement at UW-Madison.


He has had a longtime interest in academic freedom, due process, and faculty governance. He is a member of AAUP and also UW-Madison’s independent Committee on Academic Freedom and Rights that brought about the end of the UW-Madison faculty speech code in 2009. He is editor of the book Academic Freedom on Trial: 100 Years of Sifting and Winnowing at the University of Wisconsin (1998). Since the mid-1990s he has been writing about “diversity” as it is practiced at UW-Madison.