Sixteen-year-old Alexander “AJ” Betts Jr. died last summer after a suicide attempt. His family and friends believe AJ wanted to end his life because he had been the target of much bullying due to being gay, half-African American, and having a deformed lip. Before his tragic passing, however, he kindly requested that his organs be donated to someone in need.
While his heart went on to help to save a 14-year-old boy, his eyes were turned away — because he was gay.
According to the Washington Post, the rejection was based on a policy instituted by the Food and Drug Administration, which says that men who have had sex with men in the last five years should be ineligible to donate certain organs and tissues because their sexual behavior counts as a “risk factor.”
The FDA adds, “FDA’s deferral policy is based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex and is not based on any judgment concerning the donor’s sexual orientation.”
Long criticized for being discriminatory and out-of-touch, the practice was put into effect following the explosion of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. some 30-40 years ago. Many people, like bioethics law professor Glenn Cohen, have spoken up and asked that the FDA reconsider the policy.
“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,” Cohen once told CBS.