The Lions Eye Donation Service

Frequently asked questions

We answer some common questions about the eye donation process and how it works.

When is the eye tissue removed?

The cornea deteriorates rapidly after someone dies. After consent for eye donation is established, the eye tissue is removed within a few hours of death. A trained professional who works with the Lions Eye Donation Service performs this surgery.

In most cases, the eye tissue is removed at a hospital. But when someone dies at home, in a nursing home or in another facility, donation recovery may take place at a morgue or funeral home.

How is it removed?

Eye tissue removal is a surgical procedure performed under sterile conditions. It typically takes an hour or less.

Corneal transplants

Once the eye tissue is removed, it is assessed to see if it’s suitable for corneal transplant.

The cornea is examined with a microscope for defects and signs of disease. The number of cells in the corneal layers are also counted. These cells pump excess fluid from the cornea – a major factor in producing clear vision.

The donor’s blood is tested for infectious diseases that would make the donation unsuitable for transplant.

Corneas that pass these tests are offered to corneal surgeons who have patients listed with the Lions Eye Donation Service. Corneas are sometimes sent outside of Victoria or to New Zealand for urgent cases or to relieve waiting lists.

Learn more about corneal transplants

A guide to corneal transplant surgery, from preparation to recovery.

How will the donor look?

The donor will look the same as they did before the procedure. There are no skin incisions involved and the surgeon ensures that facial features remain intact. Open casket or viewings can occur without concern. Eye donations do not delay funeral arrangements.

Is the donor’s family informed of who receives the donation?

By law, the identity of the recipients and the identity of the donor and their family must stay confidential.

The Lions Eye Donation Service will send the donor family a letter acknowledging the donation. It can also facilitate anonymous correspondence between the recipient and donor family.

Is there a cost?

There is no cost to the donor or donor family. It is illegal to buy or sell human eyes, organs and tissues. Any costs associated with eye donation are covered by the Lions Eye Donation Service.

Register as an eye donor

It only takes a few minutes to record your intentions online with the Australian Organ Donor Registry.

You can contact the Lions Eye Donation Service 24 hours a day by calling the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital on (03) 9929 8666. Or, you can email us.