A teenage boy who took his own life had his last hope of donating his eyes to a blind youth turned down – because he was gay.
The 16-year-old, only identified as A.J. Betts, from Iowa in the US, had signed a blood and organ donor card – which he kept in his wallet in case of death – just weeks before his suicide.
But the youngster, due to a US Food and Drug Administration Policy was barred from having his eyes transplanted because he had acknowledged he was a gay teen – and was therefore technically a man who had sex with men.
There was no evidence Betts had ever had any sex with anyone at all, but simply his self-identification as being gay was enough to put the brakes on his altruistic gesture.
Bizarrely, Bett’s heart, liver, kidneys and heart were taken for possible transplantation into needy adolescents needing organ replacement – but his eyes were refused.
His mother, Sheryl Moore, was shocked to receive a letter saying his eyes could not be donated to a needy recipient – because she could not definitely confirm her teenage son had not been sexually active ‘for five years’.
This suggested to his grieving mother that the troubled teenager might have been involved in ‘risky’ sex since the age of 11.
She told US TV station 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.’
Laws enacted in the US during the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic amongst gay men in the 1980s place draconian restrictions on blood and some organ donations, although many organs can now be transferred after quick testing for HIV.
‘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,’ Mrs Moore said.
She added that although Betts’ eyes had been refused, she took great solace in the fact his heart had been successfully transplanted into a very sick younger teenager, who now appears to be recovering well following the operation.
‘I was very happy to hear that a 14-year-old boy got his heart. He would have really liked that,’ she said.