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Mother outraged after learning her deceased gay son’s eye donation was rejected

A.J. Betts
A.J. Betts
Courtesy of KCCI (used with permission)

Sheryl Moore, an Iowa mother is outraged after receiving a letter that her deceased son’s eye donation was rejected because of his sexual orientation. She received the letter a year after her 16-year-old son, A.J. Betts, committed suicide after years of bullying. According to an Aug. 13 report by the Advocate, Betts volunteered to become an organ donor a few months before his death as his way of helping others after he left the world.

Although other organs were successfully donated, the donation network rejected his yes due to a policy by the Food and Drug Administration, which prohibits men who have sex with men from donating tissue. The regulations were established during the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. Because Moore couldn’t confirm whether her son was sexually active or not, the donor network had to assume that he had been sexually active within the last five years, therefore leading to the rejection.

As a mother, Moore couldn’t help but feel anger when receiving the letter. She told KCCI, “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 went on to describe the regulations that have been in place for 30 years as “archaic.

Knowing that her son’s organs were responsible for saving lives is something that gives her solace, she said, “I was very happy to hear that a 14-year-old boy got his heart. He would have really liked that.” But she cannot help but remained pained over the exclusion due to her son’s sexuality.

Moore hopes A.J.’s story will help change a police that does allow donations from heterosexuals who have slept with an HIV-positive person after one year. In what seems like a contradiction to many experts, is just plain unfair and discriminatory to a mother dealing with the pain of losing a child.