By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com August 13 2014 2:32 PM ET
A portion of a deceased teen’s organ donation has been rejected because he was gay.
A.J. Betts, an Iowa youth who had committed suicide at the age of 16, had volunteered to become an organ donor a few months before his death.
But a Food and Drug Administration policy, which prohibits men who have sex with men from donating tissue, has barred Betts from fulfilling one of his final wishes in life, reports Des Moines TV station KCCI.
Betts’s mother, Sheryl Moore, learned the news after receiving a letter detailing what became of her son’s tissue. While his liver, lungs, kidneys, and heart had been accepted, his eyes had been rejected since Moore could not confirm whether her son, who identified as gay, had been sexually active within the past five years.
“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,” Moore said.
Regulations established during the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. restrict gay men from donating certain types of tissue. A ban on blood donation, established in the '80s, is also still in place for this demographic, despite a critical need for both organ transplants and blood transfusions.
“This is archaic, and it is just silly that people wouldn't get the lifesaving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old,” continued Moore, who hopes her son’s story will help inspire a policy change.
For Moore, a silver lining in this experience was learning that at least one other boy’s life had been saved as a result of her son’s donation.
“I was very happy to hear that a 14-year-old boy got his heart. He would have really liked that,” she said.