Becoming a Donor
Almost anyone can donate eyes (or corneas) upon their death
Cataracts, poor eyesight, and age do not prohibit you from becoming a donor.The great thing about corneal tissue is that everyone is a universal donor. Your blood type doesn't have to match. It doesn't matter what color your eyes are or how good your eyesight is. Aside from those suffering from severe infections, haematological malignancies, transmissible neuropathological diseases, or a few highly communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, most causes of death do not render people unsuitable as donors. Suitability after previous eye surgery or disease in the donor would be assessed at the time of donation.
Whole eyes are not transplanted
Corneal tissue is transplanted for sight restoring surgery, while other parts of the eye such as the sclera (the white part of the eye) can be used for reconstructive surgery. There is no disfigurement as a result of donation. The normal donor appearance is maintained. Funeral arrangements are not delayed and an open casket or viewing can still occur.
The donation must occur within hours of death
The cornea begins to deteriorate rapidly after death so for the cornea to be suitable for transplantation the donation must occur shortly after death.
Are the family informed who will receive the donated corneas?
By law, the identity of the recipients and the identity of the donor and donor family must remain confidential. However, the Donation Service will send the donor family a letter acknowledging the donation and can facilitate anonymous correspondence between the recipient and donor family.
Do your homework
Educate yourself on the facts about eye donation, and organ and tissue donation as well.
Initiate the conversation with your family: At the time of your death, it may be likely that your legal next-of-kin will be asked to make the decision about donation. In addition, the Lions Eye Donation Service will not automatically have knowledge of your death - so if you wish to donate, your family may need to raise the issue at the time of your death. The only way your family can be sure of your wishes is if you talk about them now.