Gay Man Rejected As An Organ Donor

Rohn Neugebauer

Despite the fact that donated blood and organs can be screened quickly and accurately for STDs and complications, gay men are still treated like plague rats if they haven't been celibate for half a decade. Rohn Neugebauer was a healthy gay man in an 8-year committed relationship who inexplicably died of cardiac arrest at the age of 48. Given that he had recently co-hosted a fundraiser that raised thousands of dollars for a local organ donation organization, the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE), it was no surprise that he was an organ donor himself. Neugebauer's sister went through the interview process with a CORE representative, and when she answered affirmatively to the question of whether Neugebauer had been in a relationship with another man in the past 5 years, he was immediately rejected as a donor.

CORE explicitly invoked an FDA guideline that prohibits tissue donations from sexually active gay men, but the organization's rejection is made perplexing by the fact that the prohibition does not apply to organ donation. CDC guidelines also state that the risk for HIV and disease transmission is so high with donations from gay men that they should be rejected unless the situation is "deemed to be greater than the risk of HIV transmission and disease" and the gay donor is the only option available. The sexual history of heterosexuals, conversely, does not impact their eligibility.

Over 121,000 people are presently on waiting lists for organ donation. CORE's senseless rejection may have just cost some their lives.


  1. says

    “but you might have AIDS!!”
    -but i don’t
    “but you might because you’re gay!”
    -but i don’t
    “but you MIGHT!”
    -can’t you screen for it?
    -so…screen it
    “no. you’re high risk because you’re gay”
    -but i don’t have HIV
    “but you statistically MIGHT!”
    -but i don’t, and you can screen for it
    “but you MIGHT”

    and on and on and on

  2. says

    I’m registered as an organ donor. I specifically asked an organ donor agency (I forget which one) on Twitter if I was allowed to as an HIV-negative man, and they said yes. I would love to be able to donate blood, too, but that’s not yet in the cards.

  3. Paul R says

    The FDA guideline cited prohibits men who have had sex with men in the past 5 years from donating cells, tissues, and related “products.” I don’t understand how that can be interpreted as not covering organ donation, since organs are made up of tissues, which are made up of cells. The guideline starts at the smallest possible bio unit (cells) to ensure that it covers all body parts without having to name them all.

  4. SurpriseSurprise says

    I’m a gay man that has been about as popular with other men as the proverbial white crayon. But since I had sex at least once since 1970 or whatever it is, I wasn’t eligible to find out if I could donate my liver to my cousin with hepatitis B (you can grow your liver back, and doctors leave a bit behind so the donor can). So she’s on a waiting list and on drugs right now, meanwhile I’m healthy as a horse, STI free, and willing to see if I’m a match if I wasn’t considered a “plague rat” as it was so aptly put above…

  5. says

    @ SURPRISESURPRISE – Wow, I’m surprised to hear that since the organ donation sites never mention gay men can’t donate, and when I specifically asked, they said yes. Also surprised to hear that a liver can grow back. Really? Would you have to be on dialysis in the meantime?

  6. pete n sfo says

    If they’re going to take this position, why not craft a waiver for folks that have no issue with a gay person’s donation. Or if you must, start a separate gay-list… obviously so objectionable that it will never happen.

    That really should tell them something, eh?

  7. Mike in the Tundra says

    Dunb. I know that I don’t have HIV, hepatitis, or syphilis. The doctor just ran a check, and that is done regularly. Can a promiscuous straight guy tell you that?

  8. Howard B says

    This is outrageous. To think that I would be rejected for no other reason than I have been in a monogamous gay relationship for 12 years.

    I assume that a str8 guy who is in a 12 year monogamous relationship is good to go? This goes beyond outrage.

  9. I wont grow up says

    As a transplant recipient, I think these rules are absurd, maybe my seven years on the waiting list would have been much shorter and maybe my monogamous partner of 35 years, who is a tissue match, could have saved me from those seven years on dialysis. But because we’re gay I spent those years waiting for someone to die so that I could live.

  10. SurpriseSurprise says

    @ Icarus,

    I did not go through an organ donation site. I’m certainly no law expert, but from what I remember gay Canadians can not donate blood or organs if they have had unprotected sex at least once since 1970something. I asked my cousin and her dad to double check with their physician, and to only come back to me about it if the news was good. They never brought it up again.

  11. Pancho Lopez says

    I fail to be outraged by this story. There’s more compelling issues out in the world. Yawn!

  12. Sean Maloney says

    Sounds like good old-fashioned discrimination masquerading as some archaic and absurd health decree to me.

  13. Eric says

    I’ve had the honor of meeting Rohn and he was an outstanding member of society in general and very much active with fundraising many charities within and out of the gay community. He & his partner Dan are loved by the city & burbs of Pittsburgh. It’s a shame his dying wish could not be granted by the very organization he helped.

  14. alex says

    I’ve always wondered why no gay advocacy group has ever teamed up with a mainstream non-profit that promotes blood donation to get these asinine rules dropped.

    Based on this story, it sounds like we need to partner with organ donation groups, too. Given the advances in medicine, it’s embarrassing that the US is still making life & death decisions using outdated, fear-based policies set decades ago.

  15. Vint says

    @ Icarus – when a living person is the donor for a liver transplant, only one lobe of the liver is removed and give to the recipient. That leaves the donor with enough liver to get the job done.

    The remaining liver in the donor and the transplanted liver in the recipient both will generate new tissue, increasing its ability to synthesize proteins and remove toxins, though the structure of the liver doesn’t regenerate (so that you are just increasing the size of the lobe you have, not creating another lobe.)

  16. sam says

    The FDA and CDC are homophobic. Their policies are based on fear, not reason.

    Obama has totally failed the gay community by refusing to overhaul their homophobic policies.

  17. Matteo says

    This is a very sad and insane case.
    A young man at 48 dies, healthy in a committed relationship and gives the gift of his organs and it is rejected. Pathetic.
    This was his wish.
    I have tried in several countries to donate blood as an HIV NEG man and always have been rejected. I lived in Japan for a long time and was told “no” because I was a foreigner.
    Issues like this remind me why GLBT must stand together.

  18. anthony says

    Only a few weeks ago, I and my very STRAIGHT friend celebrated our Kidney Transplant that took place in NYC, 10 years ago.

    I was the Gay Male the donated my kidney to my friend. My “Gayness” was very transparent in the course of many interviews. I felt more sorry for the vampire nurses that TOOK Gallons of blood from me “for testing” for about a year.

    I do not know about the CDC or the FDA nonsense.

    But we’re still going and alive.

    Crazy world………..crazy people.

    Best of all were the “jokes” that came after. Like “Gee can you dance now ?”
    Do you celebrate any extra Holidays ?
    Have you developed the Gaydar yet ? and so on.

  19. pedro says

    The fact remains that people who participate in anal sex are at higher risk of infection of HIV… not to mention the widespread acceptability of “monogamish” and open relationships within the gay community. Unlike the vagina…the anus was not specifically formed for the purposes of sexual intercourse…Therefore, said intercourse tends to do more damage to the tissue leaving it more prone to infection. Of course, people can still get AIDS via heterosexual sex.

  20. Art Weiss says

    Recent legislation in the U.S. took steps to allow donations from HIV+ persons to other HIV+ persons. I’m not sure if it’s been implemented yet.

  21. TC says

    I vividly remember when this ban went into place. Some poor young man was tragically killed and his organs were screened and donated. But his infection was “too recent” to be detected at that time and one of the recipients contracted the virus. The press was merciless, calling him every kind of monster. Headlines made it seem like he was a sexual beast who probably ought to have died anyway. When I think of what his poor family went through, I cry.