DES MOINES, IA -- A mother in Iowa is now trying to change an FDA policy after learning that her deceased son's eye donation was rejected because he was gay.
AJ Betts, 16, took his own life after years of being bullied at school. The teen was a registered organ donor.
His mother, Seryl Moore, says the FDA decided to use some of her son's organs, like his kidneys, liver, heart and lungs, but the federal agency rejected other tissue.
"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," Moore told Iowa television station KCCI.
The rejection was due to an FDA policy put in place during the height of the AIDS epidemic. It makes would-be donors who are gay ineligible to donate certain tissue if they're believed to have a "risk factor" for communicable diseases.
"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," said Moore. "But then I was like, 'I don't know. He's 16 years old.'"
Because Moore couldn't prove his son hadn't been sexually active with another man, the FDA rejected the tissue. The same policy bans gay men for life from other donations, including blood. Now, the teen's mother is trying to get the policy changed.
"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," said Moore.
The FDA says its policy regarding donations from gay people is not discriminatory. It says the policy is based on scientific data that shows gay men are at an increased risk for transmitting infectious diseases.