Frequently Asked Questions

Why be an eye donor?

Over 46,000 people each year have their sight restored or improved through the gift of cornea donation and transplantation. Thousands are helped through research. Even the sclera (the white part of the eye) is necessary for surgical grafts in the treatment of eye disease and injury.

Who can be an eye donor?

Anyone can donate. Cataracts, poor eyesight, or age does not necessary prohibit donation – especially for research.

What is the cornea?

The cornea is the clear surface covering the pupil of the eye. It is important and necessary for focusing. If it becomes cloudy, vision is reduced. Cloudiness can be caused by an injury or a number of cornea diseases.

What is a cornea transplant?

A corneal transplant requires a surgical procedure that replaces the misshaped, damaged, or diseased cornea with donated healthy cornea tissue.

Is the whole eye transplanted?

No. Only the cornea and sclera patches can be transplanted

How great is the need for corneas?

Although more than 42,500 corneal transplants were performed last year, the need for corneal tissue is never satisfied

Is there a charge for donation?

Never. Donation is performed within hours of death, typically completed with 6 hours. Families may proceed with funeral arrangements without delay or interruption

Will donation affect the appearance of the donor?

No. Great care is taken to preserve the donor’s appearance. Funeral arrangements, including viewings, may proceed as usual

What can be donated?

Deceased donors can donate multiple tissues and organs.

  • Tissue: corneas, bone, heart valves, connective tissue, skin, veins, nerves and other tissue.
  • Organs: heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and small intestine.

Can a person donate while living?

Living donors can donate blood, a kidney, a lobe of the liver or lung, peripheral blood stem cells, and umbilical cord blood.

Will being a donor affect my medical care?

Singing up to be a donor does not affect the quality of care you received. As a patient, the medical team is dedicated to entirely saving your life. Recovery technicians and transplant surgeons are never involved with your medical care prior to your death.

Do all religions support donation?

Most major religions support donation and consider donation the greatest of gifts.

Will the recipient be told who donated their transplant tissue?

No. The gift of donation is anonymous. Information is not available about the donor or donor family to the recipient. However, the donor family will learn the sex, age, and state where their loved one’s tissue was placed. The South Dakota Lions Eye & Tissue Bank does encourage recipients to write a letter of thanks to donor families. Likewise, donor families are encouraged to write a letter to the recipient telling the story about their loved one. Both actions can be healing.

The South Dakota Lions Eye & Tissue Bank serves as the confidential facilitator regarding letters shared between donor families and the recipient.

Click on this link to learn more about “Writing to your Loved One’s Recipient”

Click on this link to learn more about “Writing to your Donor Family”

How can I be become a donor?

Visit our Become a Donor page to find links to registering yourself as a donor. You can also sign up when you renew your state’s driver’s license. Be sure to make your family aware of your wishes. Knowing that you want to be a donor will help them honor your wishes and can provide strength during the time of initial grief and throughout their lives.

What happens if corneas recovered for transplant are found not suitable?

Donors and eye tissue are carefully evaluated. Corneas not suitable for transplant are used for medical research or educational purposes, with consent of the family.





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