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Democrats demand an update on gay blood, organ and tissue donation policy in the US

Democrats demand an update on gay blood, organ and tissue donation policy in the US

A group of Democrat lawmakers have written to the Obama administration demanding that it update its policies with regard to allowing gay men to donate blood, tissue and organs.

The move comes following the widely reported story of a US teenager whose eyes were rejected for donation following his death simply because he was gay.

Iowa’s Alexander “A.J.” Betts Jr. was outed as gay in 2012 and was subsequently bullied. He took his own life in July 2013.

A few months previously, he had registered to be an organ donor. However, although his heart, liver, lungs and kidneys were used to help to save other lives, his family were shocked when his eyes were rejected.

This was because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a five-year deferral of tissue donations from men who have sex with men. Because Betts’ family were unable to confirm whether he had engaged in sexual activity or not, his eyes were declined.

The letter has been signed by more than 60 Democrat senators and members of Congress, including Tammy Baldwin [pictured above], Tom Harkin, Elizabeth Warren and Mike Quigley.

Addressed to Sylvia Mathews Burwell [pictured right], secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the letter begins, ‘We write to express our continued concern regarding current policies governing blood, organ and tissue donation by men who have sex with men (MSM) and to bring your attention to an incident in Iowa that highlights the inherent unfairness and inconsistency in the content and application of these policies.’1

The letter details Betts’ story, noting that he had been tested for HIV before his donations were made, and that it was simply inconsistent to allow donation of some of his organs but not other parts of his body.

‘Furthermore, these policies continue to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes, promote discrimination, and discourage individuals from seeking other appropriate health services.’

The letter also stated that current policies did not reflect advances in HIV detection and the scientific community’s improved understanding of HIV. It ended by stating that failure to update the policies was resulting in much-needed organ, blood and tissue donations being rejected.

‘We urge you to develop blood, organ and tissue donation policies that are consistent, based in current science, and designed to ensure all healthy donors can follow AJ’s compassionate example.’

The signatories have requested HHS update them within 30 days with a response on reassessing the relevant policies.

Sept. 8, 2014 Blood Ban Letter

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