Dear Abby:

I am writing not for advice, but to help others in a situation that I recently encountered.

I have a dear friend I'll call "Kent" who has muscular dystrophy. Kent is 95 percent paralyzed, but mentally he is one of the most intelligent, mature, open-minded, wonderful people I have ever met. At age 40, he is confined to his parents' home, to his bed and to a ventilator. Kent lives every day knowing that his next breath could be his last.

Kent has never had a girlfriend nor any sexual experiences, although he has all the normal sexual feelings and desires that any able-bodied man would have. For the past four years, Kent has asked me to arrange a sexual experience for him. He called and asked again recently, so I agreed.

I contacted an escort service and before I could finish two sentences, the manager said, "Don't worry about it. We've got it covered -- and we'll do it for free." The encounter went very well. The woman had a medical background and was not shocked by his disability or life-support devices.

When Kent's religious parents found out (they were not at home at the time), I was banned from their house, from contacting him, and his phone book suddenly "disappeared." I regret that I may have lost a dear friend, but I am more saddened to realize that a 40-year-old man can be held captive in his room by his disabled body and by his parents' morals and values as though he were a 13-year-old adolescent.

Abby, there must be many "invisible" people with disabilities that we never see because they are trapped inside. I hope this letter will open the lines of communication in some homes, and also make people understand the normal, natural needs of these individuals.

Vic in Graham, N.C.

So do I, because the situation you describe is tragic. Too often, assumptions that have nothing to do with reality are made about people with disabilities. One of these is that people with disabilities do not have sexual feelings. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Healthy relationships help a person build self-esteem. They should be encouraged because they are an important part of a person's development. It is wrong for a person in control to project his or her own moral values on another adult who is dependent. For parents to confine an adult child, to prevent that person from having relationships, and to discourage that person from living life as fully as possible is to me both cruel and ignorant.

I would only hope that someone in your community who understands this could intercede and explain to Kent's parents that there is room for nontraditional relationships in cases like this one.

Dear Abby:

My mother was married once before she married my dad. She has a son, "Morris," from that first marriage.

When Dad and Mom were married, my dad adopted Morris. My parents have been divorced almost 20 years now, and Dad's mother ("Granny O'Hara") does not acknowledge my half-brother as her grandchild, nor his wife or their lovely children.

I will receive a large inheritance from Granny O'Hara, and I feel that Morris should be included in this bequest. Please let me know if you agree, and what you think would be the best way to approach Granny about this. She knows I am close with my half-brother and is kind about asking about him, but I feel he deserves more. This is a touchy subject.

Wants to Be Fair in Ohio

It appears that your grandmother intends to keep her estate in her biological family -- to be passed on to blood relatives only. If that's the case, I doubt anything you say will sway her.

Since you wish to share your inheritance with your half-brother, I urge you to discuss the matter with an attorney who can explain what the tax liabilities might be if you do so after Granny's death. You may have to spread the payments out over a number of years in order to avoid gift taxes.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate