Tags: FDA | gay | teen | organ

Gay Teen's Eyes Rejected for Donation Due to FDA Policy

By Wanda Carruthers   |   Friday, 15 Aug 2014 08:22 AM

A 30-year-old guideline by the Food and Drug Administration prevented a gay youth from donating organs after his death, The Washington Post reported.

Sixteen-year-old Alexander "AJ" Betts Jr., who had earlier been outed as gay, died in 2013 following a suicide attempt, the newspaper reported. Betts' mother, Sheryl Moore, told the Post her son had been subjected to ridicule for "being gay, for being half African-American, and for his cleft lip."

Betts' liver, lungs, kidneys, and heart were donated after his death, the Post reported, but his eyes were rejected due to a FDA guideline that does not allow specific tissues due to "risk factors" from certain behaviors. Eligibility is denied for "men who have had sex with men in the past five years," the newspaper reported.

"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 told Iowa TV station KCCI.

The FDA rule goes back to when HIV and AIDS epidemic started in the United States. The FDA maintained the policy was necessary due to "documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex." The FDA said the policy was "not based on any judgment concerning the donor’s sexual orientation."

Some medical experts say the FDA should reconsider the policy because of advances in medicine. Glenn Cohen, bioethics law professor at Harvard Law School, told CBS News the practice was "out of step with peer countries. It’s out of step with modern medicine. It’s out of step with public opinion. And, we feel it may be legally problematic."

William Kobler, board member for the American Medical Association, agreed.

"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," Kobler told Time magazine.

The FDA guideline on donated blood from gay men is much more stringent. The policy rejects donations from men who have had sex with men "at any time since 1977," the Post reported.

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