An Iowa teen became the fifth person from one high school to commit suicide in the last five years, but before he took his own life in July, his mother says, he became an organ donor.
The kidneys, liver, heart and lungs of AJ Betts from Des Moines found suitable matches, but his eyes were rejected for a reason that has his mother saddened and upset.
“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,” Sheryl Moore told KCCI-TV.
AJ Bett committed suicide earlier this year, but expressed his wish to be an organ donor beforehand. While some of his organs were donated, his mother was upset to learn his eyes were rejected because he was gay and whether or not he had had male sex within the last five years was not known. (Image source: KCCI-TV)
Moore's son came out as homosexual more than a year ago. The mother told the Des Moines Register last month after his death that she believed it was bullying over his sexual orientation and mixed-race that drove him to suicide.
Moore told KCCI that because she wasn't sure about the status of her son's sexual activity — he had never had a boyfriend but she could not confirm he wasn't sexually active — it was assumed by the organ donation network that he had male sex within the last five years. As a result, he could not donate tissues or his eyes due to current federal regulations.
Watch KCCI's report:
According to the Food and Drug Administration, donors of "human cells, tissues and cellular and tissue-phased products" may not include men who have had sex with another man within the last five years. Men who have had sex with any man since 1977 can never donate blood, according to the FDA's policies that have been in place since the 1980s, due to increased risk for disease transmission, including HIV and hepatitis B.
If some of the gay teen's organs were donated though, why were his eyes rejected? Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the FDA, told TheBlaze that due to the long waiting list for organ donations, some "criteria for donation are different for organs compared to other criteria for tissues, since the supply of tissues is more robust."
"FDA’s regulation of tissues, such as cornea, bone, ligament, skin, dura mater and heart valves, establishes layers of safeguards that are meant to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, through donated tissue," Rodriguez continued in an email.
The FDA's regulation that restricts men who have had male sex within five years from donating tissues specifies that "vascularized human organs" are not considered "human cells, tissues or cellular or tissue-based products." Thus, the five-year restriction does not necessarily apply to some organs.
Still, some like Moore think the rule regardless is "archaic."
“[I]t is just silly that people wouldn't get the life-saving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old,” Moore told KCCI.
And she's not alone in holding this perspective. Last month, some lawmakers in California gathered in the Silicon Valley to support the National Gay Blood Drive, KPIX-TV reported.
"The federal government has, using outdated science, effectively banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood,” Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) said in a statement. “The American Medical Association opposes the permanent ban, in favor of a policy that focuses on individual behavior rather than sexual orientation. The current ban turns away many willing and worthy donors, and helps perpetuate decades-old stereotypes about gay and bisexual men.”
(H/T: Washington Post)