Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Far Stranger Sex Debate: Taping Coma Sex

My boss notes an ethically and legally perplexing, multilayered case in the news:

•If a man has sex with his comatose wife in a nursing home, is it rape or might she be presumed to have consented to such things back when she was awake?

•If such presumption cannot be made, is it illegal for the police to videotape the incidents in order to provide evidence that a crime is occurring?

A three-judge panel in Wisconsin in fact ruled the videotaping a civil rights violation. The comatose woman’s sister is on the husband’s side. Discuss!

(And as Slate recently reported, nursing homes worry about the legal implications of so many elderly people of diminished mental capacity having sex even when they’re not in comas — and don’t think there aren’t lawyers out there dreaming of ways to sue over it all.)

Will all this become fodder for our Debate at Lolita Bar (this Sunday at 8pm) about sex between Stephanie Sellars and Anna Broadway? Join us to find out! But I sort of hope not.


Jacob T. Levy said...

The woman’s sister is upset that prosecutors brought charges against him, Kelly said. “She believes her sister’s husband was merely expressing his love for his wife and was trying everything he could to bring her back to consciousness,” Kelly said.

Methinks someone has read a few too many (pre-Disneyfied) fairy tales.

Yancey Ward said...

Fascinating case. I would have to say the degree of moral wrong would depend on the husband’s degree of affection for his wife. Where his motives entirely self-centered? The sister seems to think not.

The desire for intercourse with a comatose woman definitely seems odd and perverse to me, but I write that from an impersonal point of view. How would I feel if I deeply loved her? Though I am certain I would not get sexually aroused by the idea even then, I can’t simply conclude it is wrong if this man did so. If intercouse with her is wrong, what is acceptable? Is caressing her intimately wrong, too?

Meredith said...

For the record, this is not the kind of thing I dream about.