Deceased teen's tissue donation rejected because he was gay; mother calls for change


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Deceased teen's tissue donation rejected because he was gay; mother calls for change

By Julianne Cassidy. CREATED Aug 20, 2014

A mother in Iowa is now attempting to change an FDA policy after receiving a rejection letter in regards to her deceased son's hope for eye donation. The reason the eyes were rejected? Because he was gay.

AJ Betts, 16, took his own life more than a year ago, after being extensively bullied.

Recently, Sheryl Moore, Betts' mother, received a letter detailing what became of her son's donations -- kidneys, liver, heart and eyes--as an organ donor.

“I was very happy to hear that a 14-year-old boy got his heart. He would have really liked that,” Moore shares with local station KCCI.

His eyes, however, were rejected. “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 explains to KCCI.

During the AIDS epidemic, the Food and Drug Administration initiated a regulation that banned donors from donating certain tissue if it possibly carried a 'risk factor' for communicable diseases," KCCI details. "Gay men are also banned for life from donating blood."

According to KCCI, "The FDA does allow donations from heterosexuals who have slept with an HIV-positive person or commercial sex worker after one year, but many experts say that's a contradiction."

Moore could not verify whether her teenage son had been sexually active in the last five years before his death, so his eyes became ineligible for donation.

Betts' mother now hopes that by sharing his story of rejection, that organizations will further see why this strict regulation needs to be changed.

Julianne Cassidy

Julianne Cassidy

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A city girl gone country, Philadelphia-bred journalist Julianne Cassidy relocated to be a Nashville-based digital editor for Scripps Media, Inc.