Mother says son’s tissue donation was rejected because he was gay
DES MOINES, Iowa – A mother in Iowa says she was devastated after the donation of her late son’s eyes was rejected because he was gay.
Sheryl Moore received a letter, telling her what became of her son’s kidneys, liver, heart and lungs.
“I was very happy to hear that a 14-year-old boy got his heart. He would have really liked that,” said Moore.
However, she felt the letter was incomplete.
After years of bullying, 16-year-old AJ Betts committed suicide.
Following his death, she hoped she may be able to look into his eyes again.
“My initial feeling was just very angry because I couldn’t understand why my 16-year-old son’s eyes couldn’t be donated just because he was gay,” she said.
His eyes were rejected because of an FDA regulation that went into effect at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
It makes would-be donors ineligible to donate certain tissue if they’re believed to have a “risk factor” for communicable diseases.
“They asked me if my son was sexually active, and my response was something to the effect of ‘No.’ He’d never had a boyfriend. I’d never known of him going out on a date, but then I was like, ‘I don’t know. He’s 16-years-old,” she said.
The Donor Network had to assume he had been sexually active in the last five years, which made him ineligible to donate his tissue or eyes.
Authorities say gay men are also banned for life from donating blood.
“This is archaic, and it is just silly that people wouldn’t get the life-saving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30-years-old,” Moore said.
Recently, national medical organizations have publicly announced their opposition to the current FDA law.
Moore hopes AJ’s story will help more people see why.
On its website, the FDA says its policy regarding blood donations from gay people is not discriminatory.
It says the policy is based on scientific date that shows gay men are at an increased risk for transmitting infectious diseases, such as HIV.