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.
The 16-year-old's suicide attempt followed years of bullying in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, where he stood out for being half-black, gay, and having a cleft lip, said his mother, Sheryl Moore.
"It's the most painful thing I have ever been through in my entire life," she told the Des Moines Register of his death. "I would not wish that on my worst enemy."
But she experienced a new round of pain when his eyes were not accepted for donation.
"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," she told 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Critics say the policy is outdated, and note contradictions, like men who sleep with HIV-positive women being banned for just a year.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 the ban,Time reports, and the FDA says it's open to changes—but Betts' eyes were rejected because his mother couldn't say for sure that he hadn't had gay sex.