Stripteases and other lewd performances at rural funerals have raised the ire of Chinese authorities.
Chinese officials are launching a campaign to crack down on stripteases and other lewd shows that have become popular at funerals in some rural areas, the Ministry of Culture said Thursday.
The ministry said in a statement that it will tighten control over rural culture, where vulgar performances have been thriving because of a general lack of cultural events.
Such erotic performances at funerals are a relatively new phenomenon. Many rural people believe that a large attendance at funerals is a sign of honour for the deceased, and the shows are used to attract more people and display the family’s prosperity.
The funerals also are a rare occasion for crowds to gather as villagers working as migrant workers in industrial centres return home to bury the deceased.
Performances of traditional opera were once popular at funerals, followed later by movie screenings.
In the last several months, people who have returned to their rural homes for funerals have complained on social media about lewd shows, remarking that troupes hired to play dirges suddenly changed their tune and began to peel off their clothes.
The ministry cited a performance by six strippers at a funeral in the northern province of Hebei and a lewd show by three performers at a funeral in the eastern province of Jiangsu. Those responsible for vulgar acts will be punished, it said.
“Such illegal operations have disrupted local entertainment markets and corrupted social mores,” the ministry said.
Photos and videos of such performances circulating online show children in attendance at shows featuring scantily clad women.
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Your online accounts and profiles can live on after you die. Here’s how to plan for your digital afterlife
By Jeff Blyskal
Life used to be so simple. You lived, you died, and the assets you amassed during your time on earth were passed on to your heirs. Now, however, there is some new unfinished business that needs to be taken care of before you go: your personal digital assets.
What are these? Well, your Facebook wall is one of them. The digitized thoughts, photos, and videos that you post there are stored at data centers in the U.S. and Sweden. And think about all of the other Internet services with storage features that you’ve come to rely on—among them mobile bank accounts, online mutual-fund accounts, and bill-pay accounts.
If you write a blog, you may have years of published material online. If you operate an Etsy account, sell stuff on eBay, or own an online business, you have even more property scattered about on so-called cloud servers. We’ve all amassed a king’s ransom of those personal digital assets. One study released by McAfee, the security technology company, estimated their average value at almost $55,000 in the U.S.
The problem is, “after you die, there’s no one monitoring all these assets anymore, which makes them vulnerable to theft,” says Gerry W. Beyer, a professor at Texas Tech University School of Law and a leading expert on the estate-planning aspects of digital assets.
Complicating matters, secret usernames, passwords, and other login codes used to keep intruders out die with you. That makes it very difficult or even impossible for your survivors to take proper control of your digital assets. State laws granting rightful access to survivors are in their infancy, while user agreements usually bar access by others to protect their customers’ privacy.
Here is Beyer’s advice for properly protecting your digital afterlife.
Start with an inventory
Because it’s easy to save frequently visited website addresses on your Internet browser’s bookmarks bar, the first entry in your paper-based inventory should be a list of the usernames, passwords, and other login access codes to your computers, tablets, smart phones, and other connected devices. Do the same for your encrypted hard drives, flash drives, and other storage devices; encrypted home network routers; voice mail; and any fobs, cards, or other physical digital-key devices that require multifactor authentication security.
Your inventory on paper should then list the Web addresses where your trusted agent can access your account-login pages, along with the necessary e-mail accounts, usernames, passwords, security codes, and login procedures. Don’t forget the information needed to reset the password, often your e-mail address where a reset code will be sent, and the secret “Who was your best childhood friend?” question(s), whose answers only you know.
Find and appoint an agent
Because there may be indecorous photos or e-mails or other digital secrets you don’t want your survivors to see, take steps to prevent a family National Enquirer eruption. Neatly segregate the indelicate material from the harmless, find and retain a trusted third party to handle your digital affairs, and instruct him on how to manage it. This is best handled by a family attorney, executor, or estate administrator.
Draw up a power of attorney
Don’t put instructions and access information into your will because that becomes a public document once it’s admitted into probate. Instead, have your estate attorney draw up a digital-assets durable power of attorney. That will legally authorize your attorney or the trusted agent you name to gain access to your accounts and devices, should you become incapacitated, incompetent, or otherwise unable to handle your own affairs. Your agent’s authority under the durable power of attorney ends when you die, but thereafter, your personal representative (executor under a will, administrator if intestate) picks up the authority to act.
Store your inventory safely
Of course, all of your access codes are the keys to your digital kingdom, so the printed inventory should be kept securely in a safe-deposit box, Beyer says. Maintain a digital version of your print inventory to note changed passwords or newly added Web services. Store that on an encrypted flash drive, and retrieve and update the paper version as often as is feasible. Destroy the old print list after the new one replaces it.
Look for user controls
Online services have not yet caught up with the digital afterlife concern. “Many have some sort of policy in their user agreement that may allow access to an executor or authorized agent upon submission of a death certificate and documentation,” Beyer says. “The industry could solve the problem by providing a screen when you open an account, asking who you authorize to have access if you become disabled or deceased.”
But Beyer expects companies to get up to speed on this in the coming years, and some have already done so. Google’s Inactive Account Manager, launched in 2013, lets you instruct the Internet giant on what to do if your account becomes inactive for any reason, including your death. You can choose to have your data deleted after three to 12 months of inactivity or authorize trusted contacts who can receive data from some or all of your Google services, including Blogger, Drive, Gmail, and YouTube.
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by Chris Johnson
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced in a legal brief filed late last week he opposes state recognition of the marriage of gay man in the Wolverine State who’s terminally ill.
In a five-page brief dated April 16 and submitted to the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Michigan, Snyder argues Michigan shouldn’t be required to recognize the marriage of Bruce Morgan, an East Grand Rapids, Mich., resident who’s suffering from brain cancer and married his partner, Brian Merucci in New York in 2013.
A federal court had struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage in March 2014, but the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, upholding the state’s prohibition on gay nuptials. That case is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Snyder had acceded to another court ruling requiring Michigan to recognize the marriages of around 300 same-sex couples who wed during a “window” period after the initial court ruling, but before the Sixth Circuit placed a stay on the weddings. But the governor says the decision in that lawsuit, Caspar v. Snyder, isn’t enough for the court to grant state recognition of Morgan’s marriage.
“The only circumstance cited by Plaintiffs not previously considered by this Court is the decision in Caspar,” Snyder said. “But Caspar is non-precedential and factually distinguishable. Consequently, the legal and factual landscapes relevant to staying this case remain the same as they did when this Court issued the stay, and Plaintiffs’ motion should be denied.”
The lawsuit, Morgan v. Snyder, was filed private attorneys on behalf in June 2014, but the case was stayed in August as marriage litigation was pending before the Sixth Circuit. Earlier this month, the plaintiff couple sought a relief from the stay in the aftermath of the decision in the Caspar case.
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Experts from the Widener University-based Sexuality and Aging Consortium say a groundbreaking Iowa court case illustrates why consumers and long-term care facilities should do more thinking about sex — before they get into trouble.
by Stacy Burling
But experts from the Widener University-based Sexuality and Aging Consortium say a groundbreaking Iowa court case illustrates why consumers and long-term-care facilities should do more thinking about sex — before they get into trouble.
In the Iowa case, Henry Rayhons, 78, a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives, is charged with sexual abuse for having sex with his wife of seven years in her nursing home. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. A doctor at the Garner, Iowa, facility where Donna Rayhons lived, and her two daughters from a previous marriage, concluded she was too impaired to consent to sex.
“Our need for touch is universal, from birth to death,” said Robin Goldberg-Glen, a social-work professor at Widener who is co-president of the consortium.
The group, which includes about 40 experts on sexuality and aging from around the country, educates professionals and students in an attempt to reduce discrimination and advocate “for the rights of people in long-term care to have their sexuality respected and their choices respected,” said co-president Melanie Davis, a sexuality educator in Somerville, N.J.
The consortium is not taking a position on the Rayhons case. It and the family dynamic behind it are complicated. Witnesses say Rayhons was told his wife was not capable of consenting to sex. It’s unclear what kind of contact occurred between them while a curtain was pulled between her side of the room and her roommate’s last May. Semen that matched his genetic profile was found on her quilt and sheet. The roommate complained about noises but did not describe sounds of a struggle.
Henry Rayhons testified Friday that he and his wife held hands, prayed and kissed at her nursing home the day in question, but that they had no sexual contact.
He said any sounds his wife’s roommate heard were him situating his wife in her bed. His wife died in August.
“She was my queen,” he testified. “I miss her every day. I will never take her ring off.”
Rayhons is charged with third-degree sexual abuse, and if convicted could face up to 10 years in prison.
The crux of the case is the question of Donna Rayhons’ ability to consent. Iowa law defines an act as sexual abuse in the third degree if the two parties are not living together as husband and wife, and if one person “is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity, which precludes giving consent.”
Dr. Robert Bender, a geriatrician with Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, testified for the defense Friday, saying a cognitive test in which patients are asked basic questions doesn’t measure parts of the brain that enable people to feel sexual desire. Bender never treated Donna Rayhons, but said he has treated several other Alzheimer’s patients.
Donna Rayhons’ doctors previously testified that her score of zero on that test indicated severe impairment.
Prosecutors played a recorded interview with an investigator that showed Rayhons initially said he and his wife never had sex at the nursing home but later said they had a few times, and possibly briefly on the day in question.
The defense rested its case Friday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday
Davis and Goldberg-Glen think a clear policy and better communication might have headed off the legal confrontation. “There are much more humane ways and caring ways to deal with a case rather than taking legal action,” Goldberg-Glen said.
Figuring out what consent means for someone with dementia is tricky. Responding positively to touch is different from deciding whether you want to buy a new car or would rather have chicken than fish for lunch.
Gayle Doll, director of Kansas State University’s Center on Aging and an adviser to the consortium, said nursing-home leaders often try to guess what residents would have wanted before getting sick.
The current thinking, she said, is that “we become new persons” when we get dementia, and decisions should be based on how we are now. She advocates for assigning the same staff members consistently to residents so that the staff understands unspoken cues.
“People with dementia, we make every decision for them,” she said. “We’ve got to start hearing their voices.”
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More than a dozen states, plus the District of Columbia, are considering controversial medically assisted death legislation this year.
Oregon was the first state to implement its Death with Dignity Act in 1997 after voters approved the law in 1994, and four other states — Montana, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington — now allow for medically assisted death.
As of April 10, at least another 25 states have considered death with dignity bills, according to Compassion & Choices, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that advocates for these laws. Some of those bills already have died in committee.
“The movement has reached a threshold where it is unstoppable,” said President Barbara Coombs of Compassion & Choices, who was also chief petitioner for the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.
The issue of medically assisted death rose to prominence last year with the case of Brittany Maynard, 29, who was told she had six months to live after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Maynard was a strong advocate for Death with Dignity, and when she learned of her grim prognosis, she moved from her home state of California to Oregon, where terminally ill patients are allowed to end their own lives.
“I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity,” she wrote in an op-ed on CNN.com. “My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?”
Maynard died Nov. 1 after taking a lethal prescription provided to her by a doctor under Oregon’s death-with-dignity law.
Many states have proposed these bills, which some advocates call right-to-die legislation, after Maynard’s eventual death in November of last year, but so far none of them have passed.
Coombs, whose organization worked with Maynard to “help carry her voice and her message,” credited Maynard’s advocacy with helping put the issue in the public eye, to the point where legislators are hearing from their constituents that this is a pressing need.
“Brittany Maynard’s death … made it a political issue for younger people, not just older people,” said Arthur Caplan, founding director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center’s Department of Population Health.
The issue has sparked debate with opponents who argue that, given the risk of mistakes or abuse, medically assisted death laws present more dangers than benefits.
“There is a deadly mix when you combine our broken, profit-driven health care system with legalizing assisted suicide,” said Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.
The possibility of patients being financially or emotionally pressured into a decision to end their own lives is also a major concern, Golden said.
“Assisted suicide automatically becomes the cheapest [treatment] option,” Golden said. “They [patients] are being steered toward hastening their deaths.”
Golden pointed out that the safeguards in place with the legislation in Oregon do not address certain issues, such as doctor shopping, where patients whose physician deems them unfit for lethal medication seek treatment with other doctors who might give them a more favorable answer.
The fact that the legislation does not require the presence of objective witnesses could mean that patients are not willingly self-administering the medication as the law intends, Golden said. It opens up the possibility of elder abuse by heirs or abuse caretakers.
Coombs said the Oregon law has functioned as it was meant to and even has led to unexpected benefits in improving quality of life for terminally ill patients.
“I think the movement is a good thing,” Caplan said. “It has proven to be effective and not abused in Oregon and Washington.”
Many of the people who request the medication never end up taking it, though having it allows them to have a sense of security, Caplan said.
With proper checks and balances, the law should not be problematic, he said.
“Between one-third and one-half of patients never take the medication,” Coombs said. “They just derive a lot of peace of mind from having the option.”
Maynard, who received her prescription in May last year, held onto it until November, once she had decided that the suffering had gotten to be too much, she said.
In Oregon between 1997 and 2014, 1,327 people were prescribed lethal medication, 859 of whom died from ingesting the medication, according to the latest data from the Oregon Public Health Division’s yearly report. In Washington state, 549 people received prescriptions under the state’s Death with Dignity Act from 2009 to 2013; 525 of them died, though not all of these deaths are confirmed to have been the result of ingesting the medication, the state Department of Health’s latest report states.
Both Oregon and Washington found that participants had three major concerns: loss of autonomy, diminishing ability to engage in the activities that make life enjoyable, and loss of dignity. Meanwhile, only about a third of patients in both states were concerned about inadequate pain control.
“It’s not as simple as pain,” Coombs said. “Everyone gets to identify their own definition of suffering.”
Similar bills repeatedly have failed to pass either as ballot initiatives or as legislative measures in other states. More than 140 similar proposals in 27 states have failed since 1994, according to the Patients Rights Council.
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Alternatives to institutions emerge in caring for dying people and their families
When Lee Hoyt was in college her parents died — first her mother and then her father. Hoyt, now a retired teacher and volunteer at Gilchrist Hospice in central Maryland, said the losses were exacerbated by the abrupt separation from her parents.
“They were whisked away by the funeral home. It was done the conventional way, and no one talked to me about it,” she said.
Julie Lanoi, RN, a mental health clinician, hospice nurse and vice president of New Hampshire Funeral Resources Education and Advocacy (FREA) felt similarly about her own experience.
As a full time caregiver for both of her grandparents, Lanoi was upset by how quickly her grandmother’s body was taken from her when she died.
“It feels unnatural to me to have that distancing from the experience so quickly,” said Lanoi. “The person that you have loved your whole life is all of a sudden, they’re just gone out of the room, and you never see them again. Or you never see them again in that natural state.”
At the time, Lanoi was resigned to the process. “And then I realized there was another way to do it.”
Lanoi came across an article online on home funerals and “conscious dying.” The concept of “conscious dying” encourages conversation and decision-making, so that patients and families can make death and the bereavement process more meaningful and more intimate.
Both women are now what are variously called death doulas, death midwives, midwives to the soul, transition guides, psychopomps, and thanadoulas. They believe that there should be alternatives to institutions for people at the end of life, and to conventional afterlife care — that is, funerals — as well.
Interest in home funerals seems to be growing, particularly among providers. According to the National Home Funeral Alliance, 23% of its members are also medical providers — this includes doctors, nurses, and physical therapists. An additional 22.5% are spiritual care and social workers.
Still, said the group’s president, Lee Webster, “We are a death-denying a culture.”
“We’re the only creatures in existence that know we have a finite end,” she continued. “Not discussing it is ludicrous.”
The goal of home funeral guides is to walk patients and their families through the after-death process.
“We all want to feel that we’re not alone.”
Coaches, Fixers, Handholders
The role of death doulas or death and dying guides, as the Alliance calls them, is simple but important.
Patients will call on these individuals to help them write advanced directives, to plan wakes and funerals, and to help prepare their friends and family for what is about to happen. These guides can also help dying patients with the emotional and psychological work of forgiving injuries. “So that you can have a more peaceful ending to your relationships,” Hoyt said.
Many end-of-life guides will sit with families and offer support as patients are dying. Hoyt has also been called to the bedside of patients who have already died. She sat beside one man who had been dead 5 hours, while the family drove to the hospital. “The daughter was very grateful someone was there and that he hadn’t been alone,” she said.
After death, instead of having the patient’s body removed by a professional, Hoyt coaches family members in how to wash the body, properly rinse the mouth, shut the jaw, and dress him or her. It’s legal in all states for families to bathe a loved one, even after death, she said.
If the patient is in a hospital or nursing home, Hoyt can help families to complete the legal forms that would allow the family to bring a loved one home, if they wish to.
(Nine states mandate that families must engage with funeral homes. Webster’s group is actively lobbying to change this.)
While Hoyt is a volunteer, many guides and educators are paid for their work.
Jerrigrace Lyons, founder and director at Final Passages, in Sebastopol, Calif., charges an education fee to families of about $1,500 for the work she does over 3 or 4 days.
“I’m always willing to negotiate if people have a hardship with finances,” she said.
Although there is no legal license for death and dying guides, Lyons offers certification in end-of-life training. She conducts in-services at hospitals and sells guidebooks on end-of-life-care and occasionally speaks to medical students at universities.
Hoyt, who received her certification from Lyons, said, “The impetus for the movement in the beginning was healing, the really healing benefits of continuing to be engaged with the care, [and] providing a continuum of care for your loved one after death.”
The reason is obvious. “It keeps you busy and keeps you engaged in doing something that you know is very productive. It’s your final act of love,” she added.
While Hoyt could not rewrite the tragic experience of losing her parents, she was able to support the family of a close friend through her death and funeral process.
Hoyt remembers a house, filled with music, wind-chimes, and bird sounds. The windows were all open and the breeze blew into every room. Her friend lay in her bed barefoot in a favorite coat, under a giant pine bough. Then the family carried her friend in a seagrass casket strewn with lavender to a van that brought her to a burial site, where family and friends threw flowers into the air over her friends’ body.
“It was the most natural ritual that I’ve ever been a part of,” she said.
Guidance at a Distance
Lanoi’s role is to educate families so they can conduct patient-centered and family-directed funerals. She speaks with caregivers and relatives over the phone and holds workshops to share concrete practical and legal steps involved in the process.
She also connects families with traditional and nontraditional resources related to after-death options.
Lanoi said home funerals are not as unconventional as most people think.
“This is the way this was always handled for centuries and centuries and centuries,” she said.
“I think people have a fear that the body’s going to be decomposing before their eyes and it’s just, that’s not what happens.”
Conscious dying slows down the process and allows families to actively grieve their loss instead of setting themselves apart from it, she said. Many families of hospice patients have been bathing, toileting, dressing, and caring for their loved ones for years. That this should abruptly end because a person has died, and that an individual’s care be passed over to a stranger, seems odd to her.
“In caring for the body of the loved one for the last time, in washing the body for the last time, in having them be present with you after the death for a period of hours, it’s a very different experience than the ‘detaching from’ that we conventionally do, and we can miss out on some important emotional experiences,” she added.
When she speaks about her work with other medical colleagues, Lanoi said, “most of the time it’s been ‘Oh, I didn’t know you could do that.’ Some will even say, ‘That’s what I want.'”
When providers ask about the risk of infection, she advises home funeral guides to tell families to use the same universal precautions they would as when a patient was alive. Providers will also ask about their own liabilities. Once a death certificate is signed, “the medical world’s job is over,” she said.
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