Persistent Autonomy: Dementia and Concurrent Consent to Sexual Relations

Hastings Center Report:1-9 (forthcoming)
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In this paper, I argue that our expanding moral lens in sexual ethics should include the sexual expression of elderly individuals with dementia and that their sexual expression should be respected. More precisely, suppose that two individuals, C and D, have been in a long-term committed relationship, and D now has dementia, while C is clearly competent. The common view in the nursing home community is that sex between C and D is not permissible, because D’s condition supposedly renders her unable to give valid consent. In this paper, I argue that this is mistaken. I begin by outlining some parameters to govern my discussion. I then I defend the view that, under certain conditions, people with dementia can give valid consent to sexual intimacy. I conclude by address-ing objections.

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Samuel Director
Florida Atlantic University


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