HRC Blog

Teenager’s Tissue Donation Denied Because of Sexual Orientation

LGBT healthAfter a 16-year-old gay teen died in Iowa last year, his eye donation was denied because of his sexual orientation.

AJ Betts signed up to be an organ donor months before committing suicide.  According to Gay Star NewsAJ’s liver, lungs, heart and kidneys were accepted, but his eye and eye tissue were rejected due to a Food and Drug Administration policy that prohibits any man who has had sex with another man in the prior five years to give a tissue donation. Since Moore’s family could not verify if AJ had been sexually active or not, his eye and eye tissue was denied.

In an interview with KCCI, AJ’s mother, Sheryl Moore, said, “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. 

Last year, President Obama signed the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, which lifted a decades old ban on the use of donated, HIV-positive organs for transplantation, and opened the door for the use of those organs in HIV-positive patients. The HOPE Act has not yet been fully implemented and is only applicable to HIV-positive individuals. 

The HOPE Act was a historic change in policy that has the potential to shorten wait times and increase access to life-saving organ transplants, but AJ’s story reminds us that there is more work and research to do to change the discriminatory policy.

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