Former Lawmaker Faces Spouse-abuse Case; AG’s Office Says Wife’s Dementia Precluded Consent to Sex

By all accounts, Donna Lou Young and Henry Rayhons were happily married.

But the former Iowa lawmaker is now awaiting trial in a felony spouse-abuse case. He is accused of having sex with his wife in a nursing home when she was allegedly incapable of consent because of her dementia, Bloomberg reports in a lengthy article.

The case against Rayhons was initiated by his wife’s daughters from a previous marriage and staff at the nursing home at which they had urged him to place his wife. Rayhons, who says he did nothing wrong, visited his wife there frequently. She died in August at age 78.

It is not clear that the state attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case, can even show that the couple had sex on the day in question, in May of this year, according to the Bloomberg article.

Meanwhile, observers with expertise in elder law issues and nursing home administration told the news agency they considered the medical assessment of Donna Lou Young’s ability to consent to sex inadequate. She could be unable to balance a checkbook, one pointed out, but eager to have sex with her husband, just as she would be able to determine when she was hungry and ready for a meal.

“Any partner in a marriage has the right to say no,” said professor Katherine Pearson of Penn State Dickinson School of Law. “What we haven’t completely understood is, as in this case, at what point in dementia do you lose the right to say yes?”

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