A hospital in New Zealand has refused the tissue donation of a young gay man because of his sexual orientation. Corey Eteveneaux, 24, died tragically from wounds sustained from a car accident earlier this year. His family and partner were dismayed to then discover his heart valves and corneas could not be accepted for donation because he was gay.
“I spoke with a woman from Organ Donation NZ and initially I thought she wanted to speak to me about Corey’s tattoos and when the last time was he had work done,” Eteveneaux’s mother, Cherie said. “Instead she told me they couldn’t take Corey’s heart valves or corneas because of his lifestyle. Eventually she said it was because he’s a homosexual man… Corey was a fit, healthy young man and I thought his heart valves would have been snapped up. It just doesn’t make sense. There are people who are suffering out there and we could have potentially helped them.”
In New Zealand, like in much of the world, men who have sex with men are barred from donating blood or tissue unless they’ve been abstinent for twelve months, regardless of their HIV status or safe-sex practices.
Eteveneaux’s partner of two years, Daniel Jacobs, said it was a difficult realisation to have while dealing with the grief of his sudden loss: “I can’t see why we as homosexual men need to be discriminated against for what we do behind closed doors,” he said. “We’re still humans, we’re no different to any people walking down the street.”
Richard Charlewood from the New Zealand Blood Service has said the issue is a complicated one: “We do take into account that this is a sensitive issue. Where we do have the evidence and science behind it, we do cut these time frames down. If we do relax the criteria we have to be sure we’re not increasing the risk to the recipient. First and foremost this is about the safety of the recipients who have no choice in it.”
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