Gay teen's eye donation rejected - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Gay teen's eye donation rejected

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After years of bullying led A.J. Betts to commit suicide, his mother hoped to again, one day, look into his eyes. (Source: KCCI/CNN) After years of bullying led A.J. Betts to commit suicide, his mother hoped to again, one day, look into his eyes. (Source: KCCI/CNN)

DES MOINES, IA (KCCI/CNN) - A mother was devastated to learn that her deceased son's eye donation was rejected because he was gay.

It's a decision that has many people questioning whether current regulations are out-of-date.

The most precious letter Sheryl Moore will ever receive told her what became of her son's kidneys, liver, heart and lungs.

"I was very happy to hear that a 14-year-old boy got his heart," Moore said. "He would have really liked that."

She couldn't help but feel the letter was incomplete. After years of bullying led A.J. Betts to commit suicide, her hope was to again, one day, look into his eyes.

"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 said.

His eyes were rejected because of an FDA regulation that came about decades ago, at the height of the AIDS epidemic that makes would-be donors ineligible to donate certain tissue if they're believed to have a "risk factor" for communicable diseases.

"They asked me if my son was sexually active, and my response was something to the effect of 'No.' He'd never had a boyfriend. I'd never known of him going out on a date, but then I was like, 'I don't know. He's 16 years old,'" Moore said.

With that, the donor network had to assume he'd been sexually active in the last five years and thereby ineligible to donate his tissue or eyes.

The exclusion is not limited to certain tissue donations. Gay men are also banned for life from donating blood. It's a regulation many said needs to be updated.

"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," Moore said.

Recently, national medical organizations have publicly stated their opposition to the current FDA law. Moore said she hopes her son's story will help more people see why.

On its website, the FDA says its policy regarding blood donations from gay people is not discriminatory but is based on scientific data that shows gay men are at an increased risk for transmitting infectious diseases, such as HIV.

Copyright 2014 KCCI via CNN. All rights reserved.

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