Almost anyone can be an eye donor after death and leave the beautiful gift of sight to someone in need. Final determination of how donor tissue can be used will occur when it is evaluated in The Eye-Bank laboratory. The following are answers to frequently asked questions. If you would like additional information, The Eye-Bank is happy to help. Send your query to
What is a cornea and how do cornea transplants restore sight?
The cornea is a clear dime-sized tissue that covers the front of the eye. If the cornea becomes clouded through disease or injury, vision is impaired and sometimes lost entirely.
The only substitute for a human cornea is another human cornea donated at death by someone who thus leaves a living legacy.
Who can donate eyes?
Almost everyone can donate his or her eyes. Donor tissue that can’t be used for transplant can, with consent, be used for medical education and research purposes.
How can I donate my eyes?
The best way to become an eye, organ and tissue donor is to enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry here. Registered donors receive written confirmation of their enrollment from the New York State Health Department within 4 to 6 weeks from the time of receipt.
Thousands of New Yorkers waiting for health restoring transplants can benefit from eye, organ and tissue donations. Enroll to become a donor and help spread the word to family and friends. Send an email message from The Eye-Bank to others.
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Is there a cost to donate?
There is no cost to donate. Transplant agencies pay any costs associated with recovery of organs and tissues from donors.
Would donating delay funeral arrangements?
Donating should not delay funeral arrangements. It may take additional time, usually no more than four hours, to coordinate the donation process with the funeral home, and for any extra efforts taken to prepare the body for presentation.
Can we have an open casket?
Eye donation should not prevent having an open-casket service.
Does my religion support eye, organ and tissue donation?
All major religions support donation. However, if you have concerns about your religion’s position, please get in touch with your religious leader/representative.
Is cancer a rule-out for donation?
No, cancer does not automatically prohibit eye donation.
If I wear glasses can I still donate?
Yes, you can! People who have poor vision and wear glasses, or have had previous eye diseases or surgery, can still donate. Eyes donated to The Eye-Bank that are not medically suitable for transplant may be used for medical research and education.
Are families told who will receive the donation?
It is Eye-Bank policy to keep donor and recipient identities completely confidential. However, certain information can be shared and The Eye-Bank offers to conduct correspondence between donor families and recipients as long as identities are kept anonymous. Recipients especially are encouraged to send thank-you notes to their donor families through The Eye-Bank.
Click here to learn how to write your donor family.
Can the family designate a recipient?
It is possible to designate a recipient, although it is fairly unlikely that a donation would occur in a timely manner to facilitate a needed transplant. However, if at the time of death a family member is in need of a cornea transplant then The Eye-Bank will make every effort to match the donor tissue with that person.
What kind of research is done with eye donations?
Research into diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and diseases of the retina are advanced through eye donation. Read more about our research efforts in our Research section.
How long do recipients usually wait for a cornea?
Cornea transplant surgery is typically an elective procedure allowing the surgeon and patient to choose the most convenient day for the surgery to take place. The need for emergency tissue is met within 24 hours.
How long can a cornea be stored?
The Eye-Bank does keep a “bank” of tissue in its laboratory. Fortunately, cornea tissue can be stored for up to 14 days before it must be used for transplant. However, since the demand for ocular tissue is so great, most donor tissue is distributed within three or four days after its arrival.
What happens to unused tissue?
Tissue not used for transplantation or research is disposed of in an ethical manner.