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Cornea donation shortfall highlighted

The charity is working to raise awareness about cornea donations as research shows people change their minds when they are better informed

03 Apr 2019 by Emily McCormick

Fight for Sight is working to raise awareness of the importance of eye donations after research has found that eyes are the organ that people would be the least likely to donate following their death. 

The eye research charity has highlighted that there is currently a shortfall in corneas that can be used for transplant, with statistics released by NHS Blood and Transplant this month reporting that there are currently 279 corneas in eye banks, despite the target being to have around 350 at all times. 

In a YouGov poll, 44% of adults who responded selected their eyes as the body part they would least like to donate from a list of organs. Furthermore, only 42% said that they would consent to donate the eyes of a loved one after they died.

When sharing reasons for their reluctance to donate their eyes, 52% of respondents said it felt too personal, while 33% said the idea makes them feel too squeamish.

After people were told about shortfall of corneas available for transplant in the UK, over half (51%) of those who initially said they would be least likely to donate their eyes changed their mind and said they would be likely to donate.

Law changes 

A new organ donation law, known as Max and Keira’s Law, which will come into effect in Spring 2020, will mean that all adults in England will be considered potential organ donors unless they opt out or are in an excluded group. However, family members will also be able to continue to refuse consent on behalf of their loved ones after their death.

While Fight for Sight welcomes the law change, it is concerned that people could restrict the donation of their eyes.

Director of research, policy and innovation at Fight for Sight, Dr Neil Ebenezer, explained: “This research shows that people are less likely to donate their eyes than other organs, so we want to raise awareness of the precious gift that you can give by donating your eyes after you die.

“A corneal transplant can transform someone’s life, improving their vision, and allowing them to retain their independence and ability to work, travel, and do all the other things that most of us take for granted. However, every year there aren’t enough corneas to meet the need for transplants.”

Image credit: Eddie Molten/Flickr

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