FDA Rejects Gay Teen's Tissue Donation Because of Sexual Orientation

Today in archaic, bigoted regulations, the FDA has rejected a gay teenager's tissue donation because men who have sex with other men are a "risk factor" for communicable disease.

AJ Betts died by suicide last year after being bullied for his sexual orientation, race, and cleft lip. While his organs were accepted for donation, his tissue—a separate designation, which includes eyes—was rejected because Betts was gay.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:


Betts had become an organ donor just months before his death. He was able to donate his heart, lungs, liver and kidney without an issue. Moore says her son's heart went to a 14-year-old boy. But Food and Drug Administration guidelines are different for tissue donations, which includes the eyes.

The FDA prohibits tissue donations from donors it believes carry risk factors for communicable diseases, such as HIV. Men who have had sex with other men in the last five years are ruled ineligible for donating tissue, including eyes. Since Moore cannot confirm whether her son was sexually active or not, his eyes are not eligible for donation.

The inherent homophobia of banning men who have sex with men from blood and tissue donation has been discussed for years. Here's the American Prospect in 2012:

The lifetime deferral policy for MSM blood donors has been called into question for years because of its lack of a scientific basis and its failure to reflect the current technologies used by blood donation centers across the country. The technological developments of the past decade have made blood testing so effective that the probability of HIV transmission through blood transfusion is only one in 1.5 million—less than half the risk posed in the mid-1990s.

The use of a more precise blood donor questionnaire could further reduce this risk by asking questions about sexual practices, including the use of barrier contraceptives and the sexual contact a potential donor has participated in. This would reflect the actual variation in transmission risk based on the type of sexual contact a potential donor has had, as well as thereduction in that risk through the use of condoms.

Like, I feel like once we've been righteously schooled on an issue in a 9-year-old Degrassi: TNG episode, it's time to put that shit to bed.


Image via sfam_photo/Shutterstock.