Donor network denies gay teen’s tissue donation

Posted at 9:42 PM, Aug 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-18 21:42:49-04

IOWA – A mother in Iowa was devastated to learn that her deceased son’s eye donation was rejected, all because he was gay.

It’s a decision that has many questioning whether current regulations are out of date.

The most precious letter she’ll ever receive, tells Sheryl Moore 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.

But she couldn’t help but feel the letter was incomplete.

After years of bullying, Sheryl’s son committed suicide.

“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.

His eyes were rejected because of an FDA regulation.

It came about decades ago, at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

It makes would-be donors ineligible to donate certain tissue, if they’re believed to have a “risk factor.”

“They asked me if my son was sexually active, and my response was something to the effect of ‘No.’ He’d never had a boyfriend. I’d never known of him going out on a date, but then I was like, ‘I don’t know. He’s 16 years old,’” Moore said.

With that, the donor network had to assume he’d been sexually active in the last five years, and thereby ineligible to donate his tissue or eyes.

Now, the exclusion is not limited to certain tissue donations. Gay men are also banned for life from donating blood. It’s a regulation many say needs to be updated.

“This is archaic, and it is just silly that people wouldn’t get the life-saving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old,” Moore said.

Recently, national medical organizations have publicly stated their opposition to the current FDA law.

Moore hopes AJ’s story will help more people see why.