Was Henry Rayhons a loving husband or a selfish abuser of his ill wife?

The question is: Could she consent?

A man whose wife had severe Alzheimer’s is facing up to 10 years in prison for allegedly having sex with her.

The main issue at trial is whether the 78-year-old woman, who could not recall her daughters’ names or how to eat a hamburger, was mentally capable of consenting to sex.

Staff at Donna Rayhons’ nursing home told Henry Rayhons, 78, they did not believe his wife was capable of consenting to sex, the New York Times reports.

Henry Rayhons’ mug shot. Image via Twitter.

The prominent former Iowa state legislator – who apparently told staff, “That is not a problem” – is accused of having sex with his wife eight days later.

Mrs Rayon’s daughter alerted police after her mother’s roommate said Mr Rayhons pulled the curtains around his wife’s bed shut and made “sexual noises” during a visit in May 2014.

Footage from a security camera showed Mr Rayhons dropping his wife’s underwear into a hallway laundry bag after leaving the room, the trial heard.

Henry Rayhons dumped his wife’s underwear in a laundry hamper after leaving her room, the court heard. Image via Twitter.

Arrested last year, three weeks after his 78-year-old wife died, Mr Rayhons was charged with felony sexual abuse in the third degree.

It carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years’ jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Related: Man sentenced after duping a woman into sex.

According to the New York Times, there are no allegations Mrs Rayhons showed signs of abuse.

It is widely accepted the pair, widowers who married in 2007 after meeting through a church choir, had a loving and affectionate relationship.

Mr Rayhons’ defence team argue he was a “lovebird” who wanted to continue having an intimate relationship with his wife.

Henry Rayhons at court during his trial. Image via Twitter.

The prosecution claim he was plain “selfish” and knew how incapacitated Mrs Rayhons was at the time. They say her condition had worsened so much that she washed her hands in dirty toilet water and thought her first husband was still alive.

The issue is that there is no established method of assessing if an Alzheimer’s sufferer, prone to rapid fluctuations in symptoms, is able to consent to sex.

The result of this unprecedented case will no doubt have a significant impact on issues of consent regarding dementia patients.

And it could end in a lengthy jail term for this one-time public figure.