A gay teen’s eyes have been rejected by the FDA from going to a potential recipient because of a federal policy that some are calling archaic. The teen, Alexander “AJ” Betts, died from a suicide attempt in July of last year after incessant teasing followed Betts being outed as a homosexual. Now, even the boy’s eyes are being rejected.
Writes the Washington Post: “Sheryl Moore’s son lay on the bed before her. Soon, she knew, her 16-year-old boy would be taken off life support — another life lost to bullying. Betts’s mother said he had been outed as gay about a year and half before his death. His friends said that schoolmates constantly made fun of him, ridiculing him for being gay, for being half African American, and for his cleft lip.”
The Iowa teen signed up to become an organ and tissue donor shortly before he died. While Betts other main organs – his liver, lungs, kidneys, and heart – were all deemed acceptable, his eyes were not. The reasoning? Because if the teen had been sexually active within the last five years, his eyes could be potential carriers of diseases related to his lifestyle.
Moore, who was shocked and angered, said: “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 … This is archaic, and it is just silly that people wouldn’t get the lifesaving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old.”
FDA policy on the matter states that donors of “human cells, tissues and cellular and tissue-phased products” may not include sexually active men who have had relations with other men within the immediate five years preceding the donation. The policy has been in place since the 1980s, when sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B began to ramp up.
FDA spokesperson Jennifer Rodriguez said that some “criteria for donation are different for organs compared to other criteria for tissues, since the supply of tissues is more robust.”
Says Rodriguez: “FDA’s regulation of tissues, such as cornea, bone, ligament, skin, dura mater and heart valves, establishes layers of safeguards that are meant to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, through donated tissue.”
Writes the Post:
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Glenn Cohen, a bioethics law professor at the Harvard Law School, wrote that the United States should repeal the rules about blood. “We think it’s time for the FDA to take a serious look at this policy, because it’s out of step with peer countries, it’s out of step with modern medicine, it’s out of step with public opinion, and we feel it may be legally problematic,” he told CBS.
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