Author Terry Pratchett Dies after Battle with Alzhemer's Disease

Health Professional

Terry Pratchett, a prolific writer of over 70 books died this morning aged 66. An energetic supporter of assisted death (he disliked the term assisted suicide), he sought changes in the law so that a loved one could not be prosecuted if they helped end a life. He wrote with passion of his wish for a  euthanasia tribunal.

Sir Terry died at his home in Broadchalke in the UK surrounded by his family and with his cat on the bed. It is not known the exact cause of his death at this time although his publishers stated he did not take his own life.

In his last Tweets the character of Death portrayed in capital letters stated:

"AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER", and in a subsequent Tweet, "Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night." The final Tweet simply stated, "The End".

Terry Pratchett had been diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer's called Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) in 2007. Also known as Benson's syndrome after Frank Benson who first described it in 1988, PCA is a visual variant of Alzheimer's where damage and degeneration occurs in the visual center of brain tissue at the back of the brain.

When Terry Pratchett was told of his condition, he described the diagnosis as, "an embuggerance."   With something approaching optimistic irony, Pratchett observed that if you're going to get Alzheimer's, it's at least the best form to have.

Comparatively little is known about PCA but like Alzheimer's disease, the brains of affected individuals show deposits of plaques and tangles. The disease progresses over several years and is characterised by visual agnosia (inability to recognize and identify objects or people) and apraxia (problems in executing movements despite having the physical ability to do so). With PCA, the person is left both fluent and coherent, yet memory and visual acuity is gradually lost.

Sir Terry's most famous and popular works were the Discworld series. He was the 7th  most read author inAmerica. He was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2009.