Why be an eye donor?
46,000 people a year have their sight restored through cornea transplants. Hundreds of thousands of people are helped through research into cures for blinding diseases. Not only the cornea is used. The sclera (the white part of the eye) is necessary for ocular graft surgery in the treatment of eye disease. In this way one eye donor can help up to 10 people. Cornea transplant has a success rate that exceeds 95%.
Who can be an eye donor?
Anyone can be an eye donor. Cataracts, poor eyesight (wearing glasses or contacts), or age do not prohibit eye donation.
What is an eye bank?
An eye bank obtains, medically evaluates, and distributes eyes donated by caring individuals for use in cornea transplantation, research, and education. Eye banks are non-profit organizations.
What is the cornea?
The cornea is the clear surface at the front of the eye. It is the main element for focusing. If it becomes cloudy, vision will be dramatically reduced. This can be caused by disease or injury.
Why would someone need a cornea?
A person would need a cornea due to either injury or infection, or due to hereditary problems such as Fuchs' Dystrophy or Keratoconus – a steep curving of the cornea.
What is a cornea transplant?
A cornea transplant is surgery to replace a segment of an impaired cornea with a segment of a healthy donor cornea.
Will the quality of medical treatment be affected if one is known to be a donor?
The number one priority in the healthcare setting is to save your life. Donation can only be considered after death, with the cooperation of your family members. Prior to death, transplant physicians are not involved in your medical care.
Will the donor family pay or receive any fees for donation?
No. Any costs associated with eye donation are absorbed by the eye bank. It is illegal to buy or sell human eyes, organs, and tissue.
What does my religion think about donation?
Most major religions support donation and consider donation a great gift. Check with your religious leader for any specific questions.
Will the recipients be told who donated the corneas?
No. The gift of sight is made anonymously. Specific information about the donor or donor family is not available to the recipient. However, SightLife does encourage recipients to write a letter of thanks to the donor family. SightLife can help you.
SightLife is a confidential "bridge" between donor families and recipients. Our Family Services department is unique in US eye banks.
If I am an eye donor, can I still have an open casket funeral?
Yes. Great care is taken to preserve the appearance of the donor. Any funeral option is available to the family, including viewing.
How can I make sure I am a donor?
Visit our organ and tissue donation page
to find links for registering yourself as a donor. You can also sign up automatically by checking yes on your driver's license. You should also discuss your wishes with your family. The knowledge that your wish to help others by being a tissue and/or organ donor is being honored can provide solace to your family during a time of uncertainty and grief.
What tissue and organs can I donate?
Tissues include eyes, skin, bone, heart valves, and tendons. While cornea transplants make up the majority of eye transplant procedures, the sclera (or "white" of the eye) can also be transplanted. The Washington State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry lets you specify whether you want to donate only certain tissues or organs or all of them. Organs that can be donated include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines.