By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com March 28 2014 2:19 PM ET
A gay man, who had recently helped raised thousands for a local organ donation organization, was prohibited from becoming a donor by the same group after his death because he is gay.
The family of Rohn Neugebauer, a 48-year-old man who died suddenly of a heart attack March 16, was told by the Center for Organ Recovery and Education that Neugebauer’s sexual orientation made him ineligible to donate his lungs, kidneys, or other potentially lifesaving body parts to one of more than 100,000 people on its organ waitlist, reports Think Progress.
A representative from the center informed Neugebauer's sister, Sandy Schultheis, that he was barred from donating after she responded affirmatively when asked if had been in a homosexual relationship in the past five years. The exchange took place after a 20-minute hospital interview several hours after Neugebauer’s death.
A few months before his heart attack, Reugebauer had cohosted a fundraiser for the Pittsburgh-based health organization. Reugebauer’s partner of eight years, Dan Burda, told WXPI, a local TV station, that organ donation had been Reugebauer’s final wish, and that news of the center’s rejection rattled him.
“We just had a big fundraiser at Studio Raw and raised about $7,000 for CORE,” Burda said. “It really makes me nauseous to think they declined him.”
In the article, which has since been moved from WXPI’s website due to a request from Neugebauer’s father, the center referred to a Food and Drug Administration policy that prohibits donations by men who have had sex with another man in the past five years. Think Progress points out that this policy applies to the donation of tissue, not organs.
Much like its guidelines for the donation of blood, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines generally prohibit men who have had sex with men from donating organs. But while there are no exceptions to the rule for blood, a sexually active gay man may donate an organ if the “risk to the recipient of not performing the transplant is deemed to be greater than the risk of HIV transmission and disease.” Its guidelines classify this situation as an “emergent, life-threatening illness requiring transplantation when no other organs/tissues are available and no other lifesaving therapies exist.”
Burda has launched a Change.org petition asking CORE and the FDA to “change the policy of automatically excluding homosexuals from donation of organs.”
“We can make a difference by forcing these rules to be changed and better testing measures to be enforced,” Burda writes in the petition. “Far too many people are dying while perfectly good organs are being wasted due to the sexual orientation of the donor.”