• June 22nd, 2024
  • Saturday, 10:27:57 PM

Lawmakers Call for End of Discriminatory Tissue Donation


By Faith Miller


Despite a shortage of people consenting to donate corneas, heart valves, skin and other tissue after their death, the U.S. bars many gay and bisexual men from becoming tissue donors.


Photo: Rep. Neguse U.S. Representative Joe Neguse.

Several dozen Democratic lawmakers, including U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse of Lafayette and Jason Crow of Aurora, along with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to change a policy that says men who have had sex with men in the previous five years can’t donate tissue. The agency has already moved to revise similar policies around blood donation.


“We call on the FDA to revise this policy so that members of the LGBTQ community are no longer prohibited from contributing much-needed tissue donations.”
Nadine Bridges, One Colorado


The medical community is in broad agreement that “current scientific evidence does not support these restrictions,” the lawmakers wrote in a recent letter addressed to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock.


The American Academy of Ophthalmology, Eye Bank Association of America and other medical organizations say the five-year donation deferral period for men who have sex with men is not evidence-based and have advocated revising it.


The restrictions on tissue donation from men who have sex with men date back to 1994 guidance, the letter said, adding that this policy “originated from the discriminatory notion that gay and bisexual men, by virtue of their sexuality, have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).”


Nadine Bridges, the executive director of LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado, called the policy’s existence in 2021 “deeply concerning.”


“As it exists, this is a policy that perpetuates systemic discrimination and prejudice, particularly against gay men and bisexual men, and also preserves longheld misunderstandings of HIV transmission,” Bridges was quoted as saying in a statement from Neguse’s office last week. “We call on the FDA to revise this policy so that members of the LGBTQ community are no longer prohibited from contributing much-needed tissue donations.”


Photo: Rep. Crow U.S. Representative Jason Crow.

A team led by University of Colorado researcher Dr. Michael Puente recently estimated that at least 1,600 cornea donations were turned away in 2018 “for no other reason than the donors’ sexual orientation.”


“Science shows clearly that MSM activities do not adversely affect the quality or safety of tissue donations,” state Rep. Brianna Titone, an Arvada Democrat who chairs the Colorado General Assembly’s LGBTQ Caucus, was quoted as saying, using an abbreviation for “men who have sex with men.” “When these kinds of selfless donations are greatly needed, we cannot allow unfounded discrimination against potential donors. The FDA’s antiquated policies are steeped in bias and need to be changed to reflect science and honor humanity.”


The lawmakers asked for the FDA to update them on the progress the agency has made in reassessing its tissue donation policy, and to estimate when policy changes would be announced and when they would take effect.


Besides Neguse, Crow and Bennet, those who signed the letter included the following senators, among others: Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Cory Booker of New Jersey; Jeff Merkley of Oregon; and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico


The following representatives were among those who also signed the letter: Ann Kirkpatrick and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Nikema Williams of Georgia, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Ted Deutch of Florida, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Eleanor Norton of the District of Columbia, Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, and Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania.



Photo: One Colorado Nadine Bridges is the executive director of LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado.

Faith Miller is a Reporter with Colorado Newsline.


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