wikiHow to Donate Eyes After Death

Three Parts:Declaring Your IntentionsRegistering as a DonorUnderstanding the Process

There is a great need for organ donors. Each year in the United States, over 46,000 people have their sight restored by the generous donations of organ and tissue donors.[1] When you donate your eyes, you're helping restore someone's vision and/or furthering medical research in transplant technology. Learning how to donate your eyes after death can bring a greater sense of purpose to your life and leave a lasting legacy after you pass away.

Part 1
Declaring Your Intentions

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    Make the decision. When you choose to donate your eyes, your cornea is removed and grafted onto a recipient's eye. Sometimes the sclera (the white part of your eye) is also used for repairing eyelids and rebuilding the rest of someone's eye.[2] There are many reasons why people need corneal transplants, but the most common reasons are ocular disease or scarring of the cornea, which would leave the recipient blind or at risk of further health complications.
    • Your donation could help restore someone's vision.
    • Donations go to recipients of all ages, from new born children to people over 100 years old.[3]
    • Your decision to be a donor will not affect the quality of your medical care in any way. Donations are only procured after you've been declared dead, and the physician who certifies your death will not be involved in the collection process whatsoever.
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    Talk to your family. It's important to let your family know about your wishes to be a donor. Even though you may have made it official, in some states there is still a mandatory next-of-kin cooperation clause. If you keep your family out of the loop on your decision to be a donor, it may delay or even prevent the process, depending on where you live.[4]
    • In some states, a donor's registration is sufficient, and no next-of-kin consent is required. However, this varies by state.[5]
    • If you're committed to being a donor, let your family know about your wishes no matter what your state laws require.
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    Seek guidance from a spiritual leader. Some people feel conflicted on becoming a donor because they fear that there may be some religious objection to donation. The fear is that this may violate some spiritual rule, or it could bar a donor from being buried in the cemetery of her choosing. While no religion prohibits donating your eyes or other organs, you may want to consult with your identified spiritual leader if you're feeling some anxiety about this.[6]
    • All major religions support the choice to donate eyes, organs, and tissue after death.[7]
    • Talking to your priest, rabbi, imam, or other spiritual leader may help you find peace of mind with your decision to donate.
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    Determine your state's requirements. Every state has different requirements about the donation process, from registering to donate all the way to procuring the donation from the deceased.[8] If you were registered to donate in one state and then relocated, you may have to begin the registration process all over again, and there may be different requirements on how you register.
    • Every state accepts eye donations and performs corneal transplants.
    • State laws generally only affect how you register, whether your family needs to give consent, and how/when the donation is collected after you die.
    • Some states may impose restrictions on the age of the donor, though many do not.[9]
    • To find out your state's specific requirements, including how to register, search online for how to become an eye donor in your state.

Part 2
Registering as a Donor

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    Enroll with a state registry. Every state has its own unique registry of who has enrolled to become an organ donor. No matter what other steps you take to ensure that your donations go to a recipient in need, you should begin by signing up in your state's donor registry.[10]
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    Donate through a non-profit. Some eye banks and non-profit organizations work with your state's organ donor registry.[11] If you haven't already signed up with your state's registry, you can enroll with your state's registry through a non-profit or eye bank in your state.[12]
    • The easiest way is to register with your state's registry, as this will ensure that your donation will be put to use where it is needed.
    • If you or your family have a dedication to a particular eye bank or non-profit group, you may be more comfortable initiating the process with them.
    • There is no right or wrong way to enroll in your state's registry. It's more a matter of what you feel most comfortable with as a donor.
    • Beware of intent registries. While it is still a meaningful gesture, an intent registry is not linked with your state's registry, and your next of kin will still need to give his or her consent.[13]
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    Have a relative make arrangements. Because some states may require next-of-kin consent, it's a good idea to let everyone in your family know about your wishes to become a donor. You may also want to declare your intentions to be a donor in your advance directives, will, and living will to ensure that your final arrangements are carried out.[14]
    • In addition to letting your relatives know, you should also tell your friends, spiritual leader, and your attorney (if you have one). This will help ensure that there are no uncertainties about your decision.
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    Alert the DMV. While some states allow you to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles, other states may not.[15] However, most states allow you to designate your decision to be an organ donor on your driver's license. That way, if anything happens to you, the medical professionals trying to save your life will see your ID and know that they should preserve your organs and alert the parties responsible for donation procurement in your state if you do not survive.[16]
    • Depending on where you live, your driver's license may be a good way to indicate that you are an organ donor.
    • Some states also issue donor wallet cards. These are to be kept in your wallet with your regular ID card, so that medical professionals will know of your desire to donate if they cannot save your life.[17]

Part 3
Understanding the Process

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    Learn who is eligible. Almost anyone can be an eye donor. There is no age limit (in most states), and your blood type does not have to match your recipient's blood type. Even if you have poor eyesight, your corneal donation can still be used to help restore someone's vision.[18]
    • Your blood and tissue are tested after you die to check for communicable diseases.
    • Doctors may also review your medical, family, and social history, in addition to examining the condition of your eyes and cornea.
    • The only conditions that would disqualify your donation is if you had a communicable, life-threatening illness like HIV or hepatitis.
    • Even cancer does not automatically disqualify you from donating your eyes, though further tests may be performed to ensure that ocular cancer would not be a risk to the recipient.[19]
    • In the unlikely event that your donation cannot be used for transplants (due to medical complications), your donation can still be used for medical education and transplant research, with your family's consent.[20]
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    Know who benefits from your donation. Your donation can help anyone. If you have a specific recipient you would like your family to designate, you may be able to do so.[21] Otherwise, your eye donation goes to whoever needs it the most, usually determined by when a recipient is scheduled for surgery.[22]
    • Surgeons and donation coordinators can usually predict the average number of donations in a given week, and often schedule surgeries in advance knowing that a donation will likely be made in time.
    • Your donation can help anyone. Donations go to infants, the elderly, and everyone in between, across all races, ethnicities, and genders.[23]
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    Understand the process. When you die, your physician will certify your death. That physician is not involved in procuring donations in any way, and your decision to donate will not affect the quality of your medical care.[24]
    • After you are declared dead, a separate team of medical professionals will test your blood, examine your eyes, and research your medical and family histories.
    • If you are a registered donor, your donation may be procured more quickly. If you are not a registered donor, your family may be asked about their wishes for your body.
    • The decision to donate must be made quickly, as there is a time limit of only a few hours after you pass before your eyes are no longer usable for transplants.[25]
    • The collection of your donation will not delay any funeral arrangements you or your family have made.
    • Donating your eyes (or any part of them) will not affect your appearance for the wake or funeral. You may still have an open-casket viewing, as your appearance will be preserved.
    • Corneal and ocular donations are only viable for transplant for up to 14 days. However, most donations are used within one to four days due to the great need for donations.[26]
    • The person receiving your donation has the surgery performed at an outpatient facility.[27] Corneal transplant surgeries have an incredibly high success rate, with over 95% of recipients having successfully-restored vision.


  • In addition to donating your eyes, consider donating other organs and tissue after you die. You won't need them when you've passed away, but they could help save many lives.
  • Consider donating blood and marrow while you're still living. These donations help people in your community and beyond.
  • Let the DMV know that you're a donor so that you can have this indicated on your driver's license or a state-issued donor ID card.


  • In many states, family consent must be given for organ donation. Make sure this will not be a problem with your family by letting them know as soon as possible that you've made the decision to be a donor.

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Categories: Blood and Organ Donation