Corey Eteveneaux was kept on life support for four days after the car crash that ultimately killed him. He was a healthy, 24-year-old man — and though he was on his deathbed, his partner of two years and his mother both agreed that his loss should at least save someone else’s life. But when they tried to donate his heart valves and corneas, they were refused over the gay tissue donation ban.
In New Zealand, where Eteveneaux lived, men who have sex with men are banned from donating blood or tissue for 12 months after they last had sex. It doesn’t matter if the man in question used a condom. Nor if, as in Eteveneaux’s case, he had been in a monogamous, committed relationship for the past two years.
This is a clear case of discrimination that helps no one and harms many — not just Eteveneaux’s mother Cherie and his partner Daniel Jacobs, but the many patients who could be saved.
Cherie Eteveneaux said, “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.”
The medical staff was also surprised. Jacobs said he went through a number of upsetting questions while attempting to donate Eteveneaux’s tissue. He said:
I can’t see why we as homosexual men need to be discriminated against for what we do behind closed doors. We’re still humans, we’re no different to any people walking down the street. I know Corey would have loved to have helped someone, but some poor family has lost out.
According to Organ Donation NZ, the gay tissue donation ban comes from tissue banks. Tissue banks see donation as “life-enhancing” rather than “life-saving,” and thus they can discriminate.