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Consenting to Sex and Severe Mental Illness: Terra Incognita and a Priest with AIDS


This article builds upon a civil lawsuit (that settled in mediation with an award to the plaintiff) involving a long-term sexual relationship between a schizophrenic man and a priest with AIDS. The fundamental question was whether it was a consensual relationship between two adult men? Though hardly prototypical, this case nonetheless provides an illustration of the complications underlying the conveyance of consent to sex. Multiple critical issues emerged (competency, communication, fraud, position of authority, and blanket consent, etc.,), all largely anticipated by the concept of transformative consent to sexual relations. Names and identifying information have been disguised or eliminated; the underlying factual details however remain intact.

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The authors wish to thank Elyn Saks for her comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


Names and identifying information have been disguised or eliminated; the underlying factual details however remain intact. Terry Gross was the plaintiff’s attorney, Dr. Paul Abramson was the plaintiff’s expert witness, and Annaka Abramson was an intern on the case.

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Correspondence to Paul R. Abramson.

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Abramson, P.R., Gross, T. & Abramson, A. Consenting to Sex and Severe Mental Illness: Terra Incognita and a Priest with AIDS. Sex Disabil 30, 357–366 (2012).

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  • Consent
  • Informed consent
  • Blanket consent
  • Fraud
  • Transformative consent
  • Severe mental illness
  • United States