Becoming a Donor

Help restore vision

People from all backgrounds and walks-of-life have the potential to become a donor. This is a generous altruistic act that can help to restore the vision of people waiting for a transplant. It can also help to train surgeons and eye bankers, and support researchers to prevent disease and develop new treatments and therapies across a range of eye conditions.

Each country operates slightly differently; therefore we offer the following information as generalist information only. GAEBA recommends contacting your local eye bank or government agency for their donation recommendations. Our links page provides further resources.

Almost anyone can donate. Cataracts, poor eyesight, wearing glasses – including some eye diseases, do not necessarily prohibit someone from becoming a donor. There are medical standards the donor must fall in to, to be eligible, and the donation coordinator will go through these criteria with the donor’s next-of-kin before consent and recovery of the donation.

It is important to know that people with cancer diagnoses can still donate their eyes, and that people who are eligible to be eye donors may also be able to donate other tissue, organs, and cells for other life-saving treatment.

Consent is obtained before the donation is recovered. The consent process may be to opt in or opt out system, depending on the country.

Eye donation occurs at the end of life, with consent provided by donor’s carer/next-of-kin, on behalf of the donor. The cornea (front of the eye) and sclera (white of the eye) can be transplanted, while the whole eye (and parts of the eye) can help support training and research. In many instances donors can select to donate towards transplantation, research and/or training.

Amnion is another type of donation. Amnion is recovered from a placenta, with parental consent.

No. Great care is taken to preserve the appearance of the donor at the time of the donation. No one will notice that anything has been done. Funeral arrangements may proceed, including a viewing if so desired.

No. This is because the eyes must be recovered within a certain timeframe well before the funeral will takes place.

No. All major religions support donation.

No. Eye tissue recovery by the eye bank is performed within hours after death, while Wills are not read until sometime later, by which time it would be too late to donate. The best thing to do is let your carer/next-of-kin know your wishes so they can carry them out for you.

Some countries have additional services to help people indicate their intent to donate, before they die. These are: donation cards, donation registries and at times, indicated on driving license. Consult your local authority to find out if there is a way you can register your intent.

Donation is altruistic, meaning money does not change hands between the donor/donor family and the donation agency.

Profiting is prohibited. The eye bank is reimbursed by the recipient’s health insurance company or the nation’s national health insurance scheme. In some parts of the world however, recipients themselves must reimburse the eye bank for their service.

No. The match is anonymous. Some eye banks offer a communication exchange between the parties with identifiable details withheld.  

No. Hospitals and surgeons have wait lists. The eye bank allocates the next donation to the next suitable recipient on the wait list. This method also ensures for equitable and fair access across the donation and transplantation system.

Eye banks allocate based on a hospital and surgeon wait list. With the exception of emergencies, they allocate locally first and then within their wider region. Some countries allow for donations to be moved throughout their country.

There is a global disparity with regard to access to tissue. This means some times, some eye banks in certain locations have more donations than they are able to allocate, while in contrast, other parts of the world do not any access. In this instance, donations can be moved from one location to the other.

The movement of tissue across boarders can be done legally or illegally.

The legal status will depend on the laws of the participating countries (e.g. some prevent export, some prevent import).

GAEBA partners move tissue legally as per country laws. The practice operates within the standards and regulations of both nations. The legal movement of tissue has been a recognised valuable part of the global humanitarian efforts since the 1960s and is a vital tool in the fight to prevent avoidable blindness. The practice should only be implemented as part of a wider strategy to support those nations without access while they build their local eye banking system. Please see The Barcelona Principles for further details regarding the ethical practice of moving tissues across-borders.

In terms of illegal activity, there are no statistics available to indicate the degree of illegal activity taking place. GAEBA collaborates with the WHO and endorses the actions of the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism Custodian Working Group to help stamp-out unethical practice.

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