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Why Cornea & Eye Donation?

Since 1961, more than 1.5 million men, women, and children worldwide have had their sight restored through corneal transplantation. This happens when a generous donor and donor family say yes to eye donation. The Utah Lions Eye Bank is also committed to providing eyes for research to ensure a better future for all.

But there are still 10 million people and counting worldwide who need corneal transplants, and potentially countless more who would benefit from future research.

Who Can Donate?

Aside from people suffering from infection or a few highly communicable diseases like HIV and hepatitis, most people can be a donor.

Facts About Cornea Donation

  • Over 95% of corneal transplant surgeries successfully restore the recipient’s vision.
  • The first cornea transplant was performed in 1905.
  • More than 700,000 cornea transplants have been performed in the U.S. over the last 40 years.
  • Most major religions support eye, organ, and tissue donation.
  • The eye bank that places the corneal tissue—or surgically implants the tissue in the recipient—pays for any costs to recover and prepare the cornea.
  • Eye donation will not affect a loved one's appearance or delay funeral plans.
  • To become an organ, eye, or tissue donor through the Donate Life registry, please click here.

The choice to donate tissue is selfless. There are few gifts greater than the gift of sight.

How Research Helps Restore Hope Through Vision

The Utah Lions Eye Bank, an extension of the John A. Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City, has been providing ocular tissue for research since 1972.

The Utah Lions Eye Bank annually provides nearly 1,000 tissues for research and education. Without the generous gifts from donors in surrounding communities, research on retinal and corneal diseases would not be possible.

How do donations toward research make a difference? Research helps further the understanding of the eye and can lead to new treatments and cures for ocular diseases that affect millions worldwide every year.

The eye bank works closely with research laboratories within the Moran Eye Center, including the Sharon Eccles Steele Center for Translational Medicine (SCTM), the David Krizaj Laboratory, and the Frans Vinberg Laboratory.

Research conducted at the Moran Eye Center (and its affiliates) is nationally recognized. For more information and the latest news about the groundbreaking discoveries and advancements in eye research at the Moran Eye Center, please visit the Moran newsroom.

Information for Prospective Eye Donors

Are you or a loved one considering organ, eye, or tissue donation? If so, donation is cherished and appreciated by others who need a lifesaving organ, restored sight, or a life-restoring gift. The Utah Lions Eye Bank facilitates eye tissue donation. By donating your eyes, you can restore hope through vision.

Many people suffer from diseases and injuries that lead to blindness. Your decision to be a donor can significantly impact their lives, helping restore sight once again. If donated eye tissue cannot be used for transplant, research is another way to restore hope through vision. Research helps to understand eye diseases and may lead to cures and treatments that can positively impact thousands in the future.

Corneal transplants are over 95% successful and have been helping people since 1961. The Utah Lions Eye Bank has been operating since 1972 and has helped thousands of people by restoring hope through vision.

The eye bank's vision of restoring hope through vision is only possible through eye donation. Those who decide to donate their eyes truly give the gift of sight. Not only is sight restored to recipients, but donations also provide hope and a chance to give back to the community in which they live.

Some may question whether donation is safe or costs money. There is no cost to the donor family for donating eyes or corneas. Likewise, the Utah Lions Eye Bank takes great care when honoring the wishes of donors and procuring eye tissue. The appearance of your loved one will not be affected. Funeral plans may proceed as normal.

Stories from Donors & Recipients

Read about these life-changing donations and learn how you can share your story.

Cornea & Eye Donation Process

The first step in the donation process is connecting with the family, even when a potential donor has already said “yes” to organ, tissue, and eye donation through the Donate Life registry. Our caring staff contacts families to inform them of their loved one’s wishes and to provide them with information to make an informed decision about eye and cornea donation.

Not only do we want to make sure that the tissue will be safe for transplant recipients, we also want to make certain every family has the option to give the gift of sight.

Recovering Cornea Tissue

Our eye bank specialists recover cornea and eye tissue from donors in a timely and respectful manner. Our eye bank specialists work very hard to maintain the normal appearance of one’s loved one. We do everything we can to ensure that the selfless act of donation will not interfere with a donor’s funeral wishes in any way.

Once the cornea tissue is evaluated, it is sent to surgeons both domestically and internationally to be placed in a grateful recipient to restore their sight.

How Can My Loved One’s Donated Tissue Help Others?

Donated corneas can completely change someone’s life by allowing them to once again regain the gift of sight. Through cornea donation, recipients of cornea transplants can enjoy everyday activities like reading a book, driving a car, or seeing a loved one smile.

Donated whole globes (used for research) will impact millions of lives in the continued fight against eye diseases. The Utah Lions Eye Bank works with many labs throughout the John A. Moran Eye Center Research including: the Sharon Eccles Steele Center for Translational Medicine and David Krizaj Laboratory. Visit the ophthalmology research page for more information. The Utah Lions Eye Bank also works with researchers outside of the John A. Moran Eye Center. If you are interested in learning more please email us or call 801-213-2092.

Cornea & Eye Donation FAQs

Donating the gift of sight is a life-changing decision that touches many people’s lives. It’s normal to have questions or be nervous about cornea donation.

Below are some of the most common questions about cornea donation. You can also contact us if you would like more information.

Who Can Be a Cornea & Eye Donor?

Almost anyone. The great thing about corneal tissue is that every person is a universal donor. Your blood type does not have to match the recipient’s. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what color your eyes are, or how good your eyesight is. Many people can also donate their eye tissue for research.

Aside from people suffering from a few highly communicable diseases like HIV for hepatitis, most people can be donors.

I Can Barely See. Can I Donate?

In most cases, yes. To perform transplant surgery, surgeons only need your cornea. Even if you have poor eyesight, your cornea can still improve the recipient’s sight.

A donor can also donate eye tissue for research, which can potentially help millions in future generations to see better.

Does Cornea Donation Cost Money for the Donor Family?

The eye bank placing the eye tissue will pay for any costs associated with recovering and preparing the cornea. Donor families should never be responsible for eye donation costs. If you have any further questions please contact us.

Will Cornea & Eye Donation Delay Funeral Arrangements?

No. Utah Lions Eye Bank specialists perform eye tissue recovery within 24 hours of death. Families may proceed with funeral arrangements without delay or interruption.

Does My Religion Approve?

Most religions support eye donation and understand that donation is an opportunity to help save or restore someone’s sight.

If I Register To Be a Donor, Should I Still Tell My Family My Wishes?

Yes. The Utah Lions Eye Bank speaks with your family to discuss donation, so it is very important to share your wishes with your family.

I Have Had Lasik or Cataract Surgery. Can I Still Be a Donor?

Yes. Having either of these surgeries does not disqualify you from being a donor.

Grief Resources & Support

Healing Through Donation

For many donor families, the decision to donate is the first step in the healing process. Most families find comfort in knowing that part of their loved one will live on through someone else. It can also help some families to know that their loved one’s donation has dramatically improved someone else's life and the lives of their loved ones.

For many cornea transplant recipients, they can also feel grief and sadness knowing their sight was restored as a result of someone else’s loss.

Many donor families and recipients find comfort by joining grief support groups.

Bereavement Support Groups

The University of Utah’s College of Nursing offers bereavement support groups for families coping with their loved one’s death and for people suffering from other emotional problems.

For more information, please call 801-585-9522 or visit Caring Connections website to learn how to join a bereavement support group in the Utah area.

Surgical & Tissue Services For Surgeons

Learn more about the surgical and tissue services we offer and how to request tissue from us.

More Information

For Patients

Cornea Transplant Surgery

Learn about the cornea transplantation surgery and what to expect during the recovery process.
Learn About Cornea Surgery

Writing to Your Donor Family

Although a personal decision, for some donor families, receiving a letter from you-the recipient-can help the grieving process.
Learn How to Write to Your Donor's Family