Openly gay teen AJ Betts committed suicide over a year ago at his home in Iowa. Months before his death, the 16-year-old had decided to become an organ donor, and now his mother has received a letter informing her of who received AJ's kidneys, livers, heart and lungs. However, the letter also explained that part of his donation was denied simply because he was gay.
An outdated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, put in place in 1983 during the height of the AIDS epidemic, bans men who have sex with men from donating blood as well as certain tissue. Because AJ's mom could not confirm whether or not her son had been sexually active, his eyes and tissue were withheld from donation by the donor network.
AJ's mom, Sheryl Moore, told KCCI, "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."
Last year, the American Medical Association (AMA) voiced its opposition to this antiquated ban. AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in a statement: "The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science." The AMA recommended a change in the FDA policy that would evaluate donors according to their individual level of risk for communicable diseases, and not based on sexual orientation alone. However, no policy change has yet been enacted.
Sheryl Moore said, "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." She hopes that AJ's story will help strengthen the case for a change in FDA policy.