According to The Washington Post, Alexander Betts Jr.’s heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs all went to recipients when he died after committing suicide last year. His eyes, however, were not accepted—because Betts was gay.
His mother reports that the 16-year-old’s suicide attempt was the tragic result of years of bullying in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, where he stood out for being half-black, gay, and having a cleft lip,
“It’s the most painful thing I have ever been through in my entire life,” she said. “I would not wish that on my worst enemy.”
But she experienced a new round of pain when his eyes were rejected for donation.
“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 said.
The reason: The FDA doesn’t allow gay males who’ve had gay sex in the past five years to donate some tissues—eyes included—due to “an increased risk for exposure” to HIV and other diseases.
Critics say the policy is outdated, and note contradictions, like men who sleep with HIV-positive women being banned for just a year. The AMA has voted to end the ban,Time reports, and the FDA says it’s open to changes—but Betts’ eyes were rejected because his mother couldn’t say for sure that he hadn’t had gay sex.