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Gay man banned from donating blood donates kidney instead

Emma Powys Maurice July 18, 2019
Barton Lynch donated a kidney in a form of "philanthropic activism"

24-year-old Barton Lynch donated a kidney to a stranger in a form of "philanthropic activism" (Barton Lynch/The Washingtonian)

A man who was told he could no longer donate blood because he has sex with men has protested the “crazy” FDA restrictions by donating a kidney to a stranger.

24-year-old Barton Lynch from Virginia donated blood for years in honour of his father, who was diagnosed with cancer. But after he began dating men, he was told he was ineligible to donate unless he remained celibate for 12 months.

This policy is based on a small (and some say negligible) risk of HIV being transmitted in the blood of men who sleep with men.

“This frustrates me to no end, because I think it’s based on outdated science and outdated [HIV] scares,” Lynch told The Washingtonian.

“Other countries have changed their collection procedures and they’re not showing adverse effects … The technology for detection of HIV has advanced a lot since the ’80s.”

So Lynch decided to find a way around the system with what he calls “philanthropic activism.”

Washington’s Georgetown University Hospital did all the necessary checks and cleared him to donate a kidney. Just two weeks later, he was on the operating table.

“I didn’t go to work for three days so that someone could have their life given back to them,” he said.

“I don’t know anything about the other person. I sent them a letter, and they can either read it or not, and reply or not. As far as I know, they have not done anything. But I did hear that it was a successful surgery.”

FDA restrictions are “not based in science”

Lynch also sent a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services highlighting the need to reform blood-drive restrictions.

“When we are constantly in need for blood, as a society, and you’re excluding an entire category of people for a reason that’s not based in science, it’s crazy to me,” he said.

“The questionnaire you fill out when you give blood doesn’t cover risky behaviour, except for the question, ‘Have you had sex with another man?’

“It doesn’t ask if you’ve had a new partner in the last year, if you’ve had 50 new partners in the last year. That behaviour is obviously riskier than someone in a monogamous, same-sex relationship, so if anything, the blood supply is more dangerous in our current rules than it would be if we moved to a risk-based assessment.”

While Lynch is still ineligible to donate blood, he is permitted to be on the bone marrow registry and hopes to donate soon.

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