After Gay Teen Bullied To Death, FDA Rejects His Organ Donation Because He’s Gay

Alexander “AJ” Betts Jr. attempted suicide in July 2013 after enduring years of bullying at the hands of his classmates because he was outed as being gay, and for being half-African american.

A short time after his suicide attempt, AJ’s family took him off life support and attempted to honor their son’s organ donation request.

Though some of AJ’s organs were successfully transplanted, his eyes were thrown away by the Food and Drug Administration’s anti-gay policies.

The FDA’s guidance for donor eligibility says men who have had sex with men in the past five years are “ineligible” for donating certain tissues, labeling their behavior a “risk factor.”

The policy seems discriminatory when you consider that ALL donors are screened for HIV before any organs are harvested, and as Slate points out, Betts was permitted to donate other organs, including his heart.

“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 said, according to KCCI.

When asked if her son had had sex with other men in the previous five years, Sheryl Moore could not confirm to the donor network that he wasn’t sexually active, so his eyes were discarded.

“This is archaic,” Moore told KCCI. “And it is just silly that people wouldn’t get the life-saving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old.”

Slate adds:

The FDA’s anti-gay organ policies spring from the same insanely homophobic casuistry behind their anti-gay blood ban: an outdated, utterly irrational belief that all gay men are HIV-ridden disease vectors. Never mind that modern HIV tests can detect the virus from the moment of infectiousness, or that men who have sex with HIV-positive women and sex workers are only deferred for a year—or that a categorical ban on gays is just plain bad science. Other countries may lift their own gay blood bans, and medical experts may urge the FDA to revise its policies. But here in America, gay men’s bodies are still seen as blighted, dangerous, and infected.

The Washington Post adds:

In an e-mail to Time, a spokesman for the FDA wrote, “Although scientific evidence has not yet demonstrated that blood donated by [men who have sex with men] or a subgroup of these potential donors does not have a substantially increased rate of HIV infection compared to currently accepted blood donors, the FDA remains willing to consider new approaches to donor screening and testing.”

Rules, guidelines and recommendations governing organ and tissue donation are not as clear as the FDA’s ban on blood. The nonprofit organization United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has a contract to facilitate organ procurement and transplants in United States. That contract covers “specified solid organs” such as hearts, livers, lungs and kidneys, but not eyes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On top of that, it adds, “Technically, all UNOS policies are voluntary.”

Watch KCCI’s report below:

Watch another case of a gay man’s organs being rejected by the FDA: