Eye Donation

Eye donation and restoration of sight through corneal transplants is a very exciting combination of selfless charity and the miracle of medical technology.

Cornea is the clear, transparent tissue covering the front of the eye and if it becomes cloudy from disease, injury, infection or malnutrition, vision is dramatically lost or reduced. Corneal blindness can be treated by replacing the damaged cornea by a healthy donated human cornea. The human cornea can be procured through eye donation.
With modern technology , it is now possible to use the same cornea for multiple donors. The donated cornea can be sliced into thin layers and used for replacing the diseased layer in the affected individuals. Donated corneas can now also be preserved for up to 10 days in special media and thus can be used for patients who live far away from hospitals

There are about 0.12 million corneally blind  individuals in our country. Another 25,000 are added each year. Only 57,000 eyes were donated last year in our country and out of these donated eyes around 50% are not suitable for transplantation due to transmissible diseases, inadequate preservation techniques  and poor quality of donated corneas. Eye donation in India today meets less than five percent of the demand for corneal transplants , thus there is a huge need for awareness, change in legislation and better eye banking practices to meet this ever increasing need for corneal transplantation

Most individuals affected by corneal blindness are children and young adults. Loss of vision can severely affect their quality of life. The common causes of corneal blindness are

  • Injuries with sharp objects
  • Fall of chemicals in the eye
  • Infections and ulcers of the eye
  • Certain congenital eye diseases
  • Advanced Keratoconus
  • Complicated cataract surgery

Though there are more than 200 registered eye banks in the country, only 51 are working in true sense. An eye bank is an organisation which deals with the collection, storage and distribution of donor eyes for purpose of  corneal grafting, research and supply of the eye tissues for other ophthalmic purposes.

Removal of eyes takes only twenty minutes while surgical cornea transplantation can  be performed within an hour. Yet it must be remembered that eyes/corneas are human tissue and like other organs(kidneys, heart, etc.,) needs sincere and sustained technical expertise and dedicated commitment to quality and systematic procedures to handle.

Facts about Eye Donation

  • Eyes should be donated within 6-8 hrs. of death.
  • Anyone can be a donor, irrespective of age, sex, blood group or religion.
  • Total removal time is  about 15-20 minutes.
  • Spectacle wearers, hypertensive and diabetics can also donate.
  • There is no disfigurement of the donor’s face
  • Eyes can be donated even if the deceased had not formally pledged their eyes during their lifetime.
  • The eye bank team will reach the donor’s home to collect the eyes. This service is free.
  • Eyes are not bought or sold.
  • All religions endorse eye donation.
  • The identity of donors & recipients is kept confidential

Myths about eye donation

  • Face/ Body will be disfigured.
  • Will be born blind in next birth.
  • Will not be able to see GOD.

Contraindications for corneal transplantation

  • Active viral Hepatitis
  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or HIV
  • Active viral encephalitis or encephalitis of unknown origin
  • Creutzfeldt - Jakob Disease
  • Rabies
  • Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis
  • Active septicemia (bacteremia, fungemia, viremia)
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Syphilis and Septicaemia
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma

To increase the number of eye donations, the government of India is considering a law which makes it mandatory to request relatives of all patients dying in hospitals to donate eyes ( Required Request Law). Also Hospital Cornea Retrieval Program is being conducted by eye banks in different hospitals where a grief counselor is posted to motivate relatives of deceased for eye donation


  • Pledge to donate your eyes. Make it a family tradition
  • Motivate and educate others about eye donation
  • Motivate the next of kin of the deceased person to donate their eyes. Call 1919 (Toll Free No.)

“Eyes are a precious gift to mankind. A wise man utilizes the gift while alive and on death too…”

Dr Jayeeta Bose
Venu Eye Institute & Research Centre
New Delhi