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Why do donors choose not to give up eyes?

14th April 2010

The BBC Magazine looks at why donors tick the opt-out box for eyes.


With an independent review ordered after donors had their preferences wrongly recorded about which body parts they were prepared to donate, it has emerged that the body part many chose not to donate is their eyes.

Of Britain’s 17 million registered body part donors giving consent for their organs and tissues to be used for transplant after their death, some 10% have chosen to withhold consent for certain parts, with the eyes being the most common.

This could be because some people feel an emotional attachment to their eyes; fear their corpse will be disfigured or a lack of understanding how corneas are harvested. Eyes have also had a cultural significance in the past too.

Of the 1.2m who ticked the “pick and choose option”, which is more than a million people, 55% do not want their eyes used.

Prof John Wallwork, chair of the Transplant Trust, acknowledges that "eyes are something people can feel differently about compared to other parts of the body".

After eyes, the other most common body part withheld is the heart.

However, eye experts stress eye donation does not affect the appearance of the donor as the cornea – the clear tissue covering the front of the eye - is the part that is used.

The Organ Donation Campaign says there needs to be better awareness of the harvesting process for corneas and about donations in general.

NHS Blood and Transplant said last year 2,711 people had their sight restored by corneas supplied through donors.


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Article Information

Title: Why do donors choose not to give up eyes?
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 14621
Date Added: 14th Apr 2010


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