Alexander Betts Jr's heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs all went to recipients when he died following a suicide attempt last year. His eyes, however, did not—because Betts was gay, the Washington Post reports. "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," his mother, Sheryl Moore, tells KCCI. The reason: The FDA doesn't allow gay males who've had gay sex in the past five years to donate some tissues—eyes included—due to "an increased risk for exposure" to HIV and other diseases.
Critics say the policy is outdated, and note contradictions, like men who sleep with HIV-positive women being banned for just a year. The AMA has voted to end a similar ban on gay men donating blood, Time reported last year. But Betts' eyes were rejected because his mother couldn't say for sure that he hadn't had gay sex. Her deeper pain, of course, came from his suicide attempt and death soon after in Pleasant Hill, Iowa. She says he'd been bullied for being gay, half-black, and having a cleft clip. "It’s the most painful thing I have ever been through in my entire life," she told the Des Moines Register last year. "I would not wish that on my worst enemy." (Click to read about a woman whose organ donation marks the returning of a favor.)