Donating organs, tissue or corneas after death can make a real difference to people who require transplants or treatment for an illness. Most people with a terminal illness are not able to donate their organs (for example, heart or lungs) after death. However, they are usually able to give their corneas and often other tissues to help others.

Corneal donation

What is the cornea?

The cornea is the eye’s clear outermost surface that covers the front of the eye.

How will donating my cornea help others?

Donated corneas can help people with damaged corneas to see again or have their sight improved.

Can someone with cancer donate their corneas?

Yes, in most cases they can. There are some exceptions, like blood cancers, blood borne infections or eye disease so please do ask clinical staff for more information.

Where does the donation take place?

It usually takes place in the hospice or at the funeral director’s. Please be reassured that the removal of your corneas will be carried out with the same care as any other medical procedure.

Will donating my cornea alter how I look after death?

In most cases, you will look unchanged after donating your cornea although occasionally there may be slight bruising round the eyes.

What do I need to do if I want to donate my corneas?

If you wish to donate your corneas you just need to let staff at the hospice, or your GP, know that you would like this to happen. We will ensure it is recorded in your clinical record.

We also encourage you to talk through your decision with your family or other people close to you, so that they can support your wishes. You can of course change your mind at any time.

Tissue donation

What is tissue donation?

Tissue donation is the giving of tissues like skin, heart valves, bone and tendons to those who will benefit. Tissues are taken from the deceased donor and transplanted to patients who need them.

How will donating some of my tissues help others?

These tissues are used to replace damaged tissues and donated tissue can improve the lives of many people suffering from illness or injury. They can also greatly increase the quality of the recipients’ lives. For example, heart valves can be transplanted to save the lives of patients suffering from diseased or damaged valves.

Can anyone donate tissue?

Yes, most people without cancer can donate tissue but there are some exceptions. Please ask clinical staff for further information.

Where does tissue donation take place?

It usually takes place at the funeral director’s.

How do I donate some of my tissues?

If you wish to donate some of your tissues you just need to let staff at the hospice, or your GP, know that you would like this to happen. We will ensure it is recorded in your clinical record. We also encourage you to talk through your decision with your family or other people close to you, so that they can support your wishes. You can of course change your mind at any time.

Will my family or those close to me know who my donation has helped?

Your donation will make a huge difference in the life of someone who is ill and requiring corneal or tissue donation. The National Referral Centre,which co-ordinates corneal and tissue donation throughout the country, are able to tell your family that your donation has been used and how it has helped a patient.