The eye donation from a 16-year-old Iowa boy who killed himself last year was reportedly rejected because he was gay.
Alexander Betts Jr., of Pleasant Hill, was outed as gay about a year and half before his death. Schoolmates ridiculed him for being gay, half-black, and for his cleft lip, his mother Sheryl Moore told a local CBS affiliate.
Months before his suicide last summer, the teen decided to become an organ donor. His heart, liver, kidneys and lungs all went to recipients when he died — except for his eyes, which were rejected because of his risk for HIV, according to a letter Miss Moore received.
“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,” she told the station.
The decades-old rule by the Food and Drug Administration says would-be donors “should” be made ineligible to donate certain tissues if they’re believed to be a risk for communicable diseases. Miss Moore couldn’t confirm whether her son had been sexually active with a man in the five years preceding his death, and so the donor network declared his eyes ineligible for donation.
“This is archaic, and it is just silly that people wouldn’t get the life-saving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old,” Miss Moore told the station.
Critics have long called the rule discriminatory, but the FDA says it’s necessary. Last summer, the American Medical Association voted to end the ban, The Washington Post reported.
The nonprofit organization United Network for Organ Sharing has a contract to facilitate organ procurement and transplants in United States, The Post reported. That contract covers “specified solid organs” such as hearts, livers, lungs and kidneys, but not eyes. The policies are also voluntary, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Post reported.