Eye donation is an act of donating one’s eyes after his/her death. Only corneal blinds can be benefitted through this process, not other Blinds. It is an act of charity, purely for the benefit of the society and is totally voluntary. It is done after death. Eye-donation should be encouraged in a large scale, as one of the best means of social service. To enable another person obtain vision is one of the best forms of charity. Even after death the donor lives in the eyes of recipient. Eyes from a dead person can enable two blind people to acquire vision.

What is corneal blindness?

Cornea, the main focusing part , is the clear front surface of the eye. Like a window, it allows light to enter the eye. Vision could be markedly reduced or lost if the cornea becomes cloudy or scarred. This condition is known as corneal blindness.

What are the causes of corneal blindness?

Injuries to the eye, birth defects, malnutrition, infections, chemical burns, congenital disorders and complications of eye surgery.

Who can donate eyes?

  • Eye donors could be of any age group or sex.
  • People who use spectacles, diabetics, patients with high blood pressure, asthma patients and those without communicable diseases can donate eyes.

Persons with AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, Rabies, Septicaemia, Acute leukemia (Blood cancer), Tetanus, Cholera, and infectious diseases like Meningitis and Encephalitis cannot donate eyes.

What is an eye bank?

The eye bank is a nonprofit organization and obtains, medically evaluates and distributes eyes which are donated by humanitarian citizens for use in cornea transplants, scleral reconstruction, research and education. To ensure patient safety the donated eyes and the donor’s medical history are evaluated by the eye bank staff in accordance with the Eye Bank association of America’s (EBAA) strict medical standards.

Who can be an eye donor?

Anyone. Cataract, poor eye sight and age do not prohibit you from becoming a donor. Prospective donors should indicate their intention on donor cards and driver’s licenses. Perhaps the most important single thing you can do is make your next of kin aware of your wishes to make sure they are carried out.

Why should eyes be donated?

Donated human eyes and corneal tissue are necessary for the preservation and restoration of sight and are used for transplantation, research and education. Over 90 percent of the more than 41,300 cornea transplant operations performed each year successfully restore vision to persons suffering from corneal blindness.

What is cornea?

The cornea is the clear surface at the front of the eye and is the main focusing element. When the cornea becomes cloudy from disease, injury, infection or any other cause, vision will be drastically reduced.

What is a cornea transplant?

Cornea transplant is the surgical procedure which replaces a disc-shaped segment of an impaired cornea with a similarly shaped piece of a healthy donor cornea. More than 90 of cornea transplant operations successfully restore the recipient’s vision.

How prevalent is cornea transplantation?

Cornea transplants are the most frequently performed human transplant procedure. In 1991 there were more cornea transplants than all other organ transplants combined. In the last 30 years, more than 500,000 cornea transplants have been performed, restoring sight to men, women, and children ranging in age from nine days to 103 years.

How soon after donation must a cornea be transplanted?

Cornea transplant is usually performed within 4 days after donation, depending upon the method of cornea preservation.

When does the donation take place?

The surgical removal of the eye tissue is performed soon after death, ensuring the tissue is in the best possible condition for transplant. This also makes sure that the funeral arrangements are not delayed in any way. Because the removal causes no disfiguration, an open casket is still an option for the donor family.

Can the whole eye be transplanted?

No. Only the cornea and the sclera (white part of the eye) can be transplanted. The whole eye can be used for valuable research on eye diseases and treatments and education.

How is the donor suitability determined?

Potential donors are carefully screened for medical suitability and high risk factors. HIV, Hepatitis B and syphilis tests are done before any tissue is released for surgery. If any tissue is deemed unsuitable for transplant, the information is then scrutinized for the possibility of use of research. Our primary concern is the safety of the potential recipients, eye bank staff and researchers.

How do research and education benefit from eye donation?

The addition to corneas used for surgical procedures, more than 35,000 eyes are used annually for research and education. Research on glaucoma, retinal disease, complications of diabetes and other sight disorders benefit from eye donations because many eye problems cannot be simulated – only human eyes can be used. These studies help us find out the causes and effects of specific eye conditions and lead to new treatments and cures.

Are there religious conflicts to eye, organ or tissue donation?

No. Donation is a gift of life or sight to others. As such, eye, organ and tissue donations are consistent with the beliefs and attitudes of major religions.

Is there any delay in funeral arrangements?

No. Eye tissue is procured within hours of death, so families may proceed with funeral arrangements as planned.

Will eye donation affect the appearance of the donor?

No. Great care is taken to preserve the appearance of the donor. No one will be able to notice that eyes have been donated. Families may even hold a viewing and have an open casket ceremony.

Will the donor’s family pay or receive any fees?

No. It is illegal to buy and sell human eyes, organs and tissues. Any cost associated with eye procurement are absorbed by the eye bank.

Will the recipients be told the identity of the donor?

No. Donor anonymity is strictly preserved by law.

Will the quality of medical care be affected if one is known to be a Donor?

Absolutely not. Strict laws protect the potential donor. Legal guidelines must be followed before death can be certified. A Physician certifying a patient’s death cannot be in any way involved with eye procurement or with the transplant.

What are the benefits to a donor family?

In addition to fulfilling your loved one’s wishes, donation can offer comfort to a grieving family. Just knowing that a small part of our loved one is going in life, helping someone see this world is a consolation, something to hold on to in times of sorrow.

How can I become a donor?

The most important action you can take is to tell your family and legal representative. Most states now require that families be offered the option of donation when a loved one dies. Families may give consent for donation. It is most helpful if they know how you feel in advance. A donor card can serve as an indication to your family, your legal representative and hospitals of your intention to be an eye donor.

You can help…

  • By deciding to donate eyes, and giving someone the most precious gift of sight.
  • By encouraging your family members to donate.
  • Being a member of the eye donation centre
  • Calling the nearest eye bank immediately when a death occurs in the family
  • Motivating friends and relatives of the deceased to donate eyes
  • Monetary support to the patient or to the eye bank.

Facts about eye donation

  • Eyes can be donated only after death
  • Eyes must be removed within 4 – 6 hours after death
  • Eyes can be removed by a registered medical practitioner only.
  • The eye bank team will visit the home of the deceased or the hospital to remove the eyes.
  • Eye removal does not delay the funeral since the entire procedure takes 20-30 minutes only
  • A small quantity of blood will be drawn to rule out communicable diseases
  • Eye retrieval does not cause disfigurement
  • Religions are for eye donation
  • The identities of both the donor and the recipient are kept confidential

Important points

(To donate eyes, the following procedures should be done by the relatives of the deceased)

  • Close the eye lids of the deceased
  • Switch off the fan
  • Raise the head of the deceased slightly by placing a pillow underneath
  • Contact the nearest eye bank as quickly as possible.
  • Give the correct address with specific landmarks and telephone number to enable the eye bank team locate the place easily
  • If the death certificate from the physician is available, keep it ready
  • Eye donation can be done only with the written consent of the next of kin in the presence of two witnesses

After eye donation…

  • The donor’s family receives a certificate of appreciation from the eye bank
  • The eyes are taken to the eye bank and evaluated by a trained eye bank staff
  • Tests are carried out and the tissue is sent to the corneal surgeon
  • The waiting list is referred and the recipient is called for corneal transplant
  • Corneal transplant is performed
  • Periodic follow-up of the recipient is done over time to ensure that the graft is successful

Services of the eye bank

  • Availability of trained staff round the clock to attend the calls
  • Evaluate and provide quality corneas to corneal surgeons
  • Enable corneal research using eyes unsuitable for grafts, to find newer techniques, improve preservation methods and train corneal surgeons
  • Increase public awareness on eye donation and eye banking
  • Train doctors in eye removal procedures
  • Develop and establish a network of eye donation centres