Eye donations drop dramatically
A new study finds the number of eyes donated for research has dropped nearly 30 percent since 1997. Interestingly, an increasing number of people say they are willing to donate their eyes but most don’t follow through, according to the study, reported in the journal Current Eye Research.
Research leader, Andrew Williams, a medical student at Michigan State University says the shortage of donations may be tied to a lack of understanding.
“A lot of people aren’t aware they can donate their eyes to research,” Williams said in a news release. “They don’t really know how to get the process started. It comes down to a lack of education.”
Nearly 200 people with eye diseases were surveyed for the study. Williams found that 90 percent of the people said they were willing to offer their eyes for the sake of science, but most did not register to donate.
Of those who didn’t sign up, 77 percent said they opted out because they thought their eyes were too diseased to be useful for research and also because they were never asked to donate. Williams said diseased eyes are “particularly useful for research,” however.
Donating eyes and donating organs are two different things and the donation process varies from state to state. Williams thinks donations would rise if the process was less complicated and if physicians would provide more information to their patients.
“The donation process is too complex,” Williams said. “It could be structured better to facilitate donations. We were concerned about the doctor-patient relationship, but our thought was that it seems reasonable to have a pamphlet in the waiting room.”
The study found that 41 percent of patients would prefer to hear details about donation from their doctors.
“Eye donation has restored sight to thousands of patients,” Williams said. “If we were able to streamline the process, researchers could work much more efficiently.”
Downers Grove, Illinois-based Advocate Health Care has several hospitals with highly-recognized organ donation programs. Advocate partners with the Gift of Hope organization. To learn more about the benefits of organ donation and how you can help save a life, visit giftofhope.org.
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More information specific to eye/cornea donation, transplantation and research can be found by visiting http://www.illinoiseyebank.org