Alexander 'A.J.' Betts Jr., 16, of Pleasant Hills, Iowa, committed suicide in July 2013 after enduring more than 18 months of ridicule when he was outed as gay. Six months prior to his unfortunate death, AJ had signed up to become an organ donor.
After his death, his mother, Sheryl Moore, hoped that his tragic end would save other lives. She has reportedly said, "Even in his death AJ is continuing to give. And so I've been in a hospital room with my son for almost three days now he's been dead ... he's on a bunch of machines being pumped full a bunch of medicines to get his organs healthy to give to numerous other people." Unfortunately, her son's final wish was not fully granted.
A letter received by Moore, listed details of what happened to her son's organs. The letter stated, a 14-year-old boy was able to receive AJ's heart; his kidneys, liver, heart and lungs were also donated. But then, it said that his eyes have been rejected from donation because he was gay.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates that since 1977, or about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, any donor believed to have a risk for communicable diseases, like HIV, can not donate his or her eyes along with other tissue, specially pointing to men who have sex with other men. Despite improvements in infection detection technology, this position has not changed.
The devastated teenager's mother 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."
Various national medical organizations have been publicly critical of the FDA law, calling this regulation as discriminatory and efforts are underway to try and change it.
A Director at Harvard Law School, Glenn Cohen said, "We think it's time for the FDA to take a serious look at its 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."
AJ's mother hopes that one day the eyes of her son will help someone see again, but till then calls the regulation "archaic."