FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT EYE DONATION
1. What is an eye bank?
An eye bank is a nonprofit organization that obtains, medically evaluates and distributes eyes which are donated by humanitarian minded 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.
2. Who can be an eye donor?
Anyone. Cataracts, 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. The most important single thing you can do is make your next of kin aware of your wishes to ensure they are carried out.
3. 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.
4. What is the cornea?
The cornea is the clear surface at the front of the eye and is the main focusing element. Should the cornea become cloudy from disease, injury, infection or any other cause, vision will be drastically reduced.
5. What is a cornea transplant?
A 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 percent of cornea transplant operations successfully restore the recipient’s vision.
6. How prevalent is cornea transplantation?
Cornea transplants are the most frequently performed human transplant procedure. In 1991 there were more cornea transplants than all 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.
7. How soon after donation must a cornea be transplanted?
A cornea transplant is usually performed within three to seven days after donation, depending upon the method of cornea preservation.
8. When does the donation take place?
The surgical removal of the eye tissue is performed soon after the time of 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.
9. Can the whole eye be transplanted?
No. Only the cornea and the sclera (the white of the eye) can be transplanted. The whole eye can be used for valuable research into eye diseases and treatments and education.
10. How is donor suitability determined?
All potential donors are carefully screened for medical suitability and high risk factors. HIV, hepatitis B and C, HTLV1-2 and syphilis tests are run before any tissue is released for surgery. Should any tissue be deemed unsuitable for transplant, the information is then evaluated for the possibility of use for research, if consent for research is given. Our primary concern is for the safety of the potential recipients, eye bank staff and researchers.
11. How do research and education benefit from eye donation?
In addition to corneas used for surgical procedures, more than 35,000 eyes are used annually for research and education. Research into glaucoma, retinal disease, complications of diabetes and other sight disorders benefit from donations because many eye problems cannot be simulated-only human eyes can be used. These studies advance the discovery of the causes and effects of specific eye conditions and lead to new treatments and cures.
12. 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. For more information regarding religious views toward donation or to see you religions view please use the following link: RELIGION AND DONATION
13. Is there any delay in funeral arrangements?
No. Eye tissue is procured within hours of death, so families may proceed as planned with funeral arrangements.
14. 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 see that anything has been done. Families may even hold a viewing and have an open casket ceremony.
15. Will the donor’s family pay or receive any fees?
No. It is illegal to buy and sell human eyes, organs and tissues. Any costs associated with eye procurement are absorbed by the eye bank.
16. Will the recipients be told the identity of the donor?
No. Donor anonymity is strictly preserved by law.
17. 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.
18. 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 a small part of your loved one is going in life, helping someone see in this world is consolation, something to hold on to in a time of sorrow.
19. How can I become a donor?
The most important action you can take to ensure you will be a donor 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.