One Equal World

Teen’s Tissue Donation Denied because He Was Gay

Posted on: September 2, 2014

Just over a year ago, 16-year-old AJ Betts took his life at his home in Iowa because of bullying. He decided to become an organ donor months before his death, but now that wish won’t be fully granted. His eyes were rejected because of an FDA regulation that came about around the AIDs epidemic.

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The rejection of AJ’s eyes has made many question whether current regulations are out of date. “My initial feeling was just very angry because I couldn’t understand why my 16-year-old son’s eye couldn’t be donated just because he was gay,” Moore said.

The regulation makes would-be donors ineligible to donate certain tissues because it is believed they have a risk factor. Gay men also are banned for life from donating blood because of the regulation. The Food and Drug Administration classifies eyes as tissue rather than organs, which means they have different standards for donation.

Luckily, not all of AJ’s organs have been rejected because of such antiquated laws. AJ’s mother, Sheryl Moore, received a letter letting her know 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. He would have really liked that,” Moore said.

Alexander “AJ” Betts was taken off life support over a year ago after an attempted suicide caused irreversible damage that he’d never survive. The suicide came after classmates called him out for being gay and bullied him. At the time, AJ was the fifth student from Southeast Polk High School to commit suicide within five years.

“We had no indication that anything was wrong. He is the happiest kid I’ve ever met. Everybody who meets him says that,” said Moore.

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