When A.J. Betts, a 16-year-old from Iowa, died by suicide, his family saw to it that his organs were donated to those in need, per his wishes.
A.J.’s liver, lungs, kidneys, and heart were accepted — in fact, his heart went to a 14-year-old boy. But of all things, his eyes were rejected because of an FDA policy barring men who have sex with men from donating tissue. A.J.’s mother could not confirm whether her son had been sexually active, and so his eyes couldn’t be accepted as donations.
“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,” A.J.’s mother Sheryl 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.
Talk about an outdated policy being used in the weirdest possible way. I hope A.J.’s family finds peace in knowing that some of his organs were used to help others, and that so many of us around the world are thinking of him and his ongoing generosity.
Worth mentioning that in 2010 a public committee voted on whether or not to get rid of the blood ban, but ultimately decided to keep it in place.