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Can someone suffering from Alzheimer’s consent to sex?




A woman, suffering from Alzheimer's desease, holds the hand of a relative on March 18, 2011 in a retirement house in Angervilliers, eastern France.
A woman, suffering from Alzheimer's desease, holds the hand of a relative on March 18, 2011 in a retirement house in Angervilliers, eastern France.
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78-year-old Henry Rayhons is being charged with a felony for allegedly raping his wife, Donna Rayhons, who suffered from Alzheimer’s at a nursing home where she resided.

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office says that because Donna Rayhons lacked the mental capacity to consent to sex, she was raped. The couple married in their 70s and they were described as inseparable. About four years ago, Donna was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and on the recommendation of a family physician, she was later put in a nursing home. Donna’s two daughters from another marriage started suspecting that Henry was having sex with Donna and were concerned whether she was able to give consent.

Prosecutors will have to convince a jury that a sex act actually happened in Donna Rayhons' room at the nursing home where she was staying. If they can prove that, a conviction of Henry Rayhons will hinge on whether his wife wanted sex or not and whether her illness prevented her from communicating her wishes.

Donna died four days before her 79th birthday of complications from Alzheimer’s. Henry was arrested soon after for alleged rape. He pleaded not guilty.

Guests: 

Katherine Pearson, professor of law, Penn State Dickinson Law whose specialty is elder law who’s been studying the case

Daniel Reingold, President and CEO of Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York, the first long-term care facility to create a sexual expression policy