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Aug 29, 2008

Eye Donation Fortnight

Aravind Eye Hospital here is observing an Eye Donation Fortnight till September 8. It will spread awareness on donating eyes and the procedure involved in the removal of corneas from dead persons who had pledged their eyes. A rally by students was taken out on Thursday to stress eye donation. Medical Officer, Cornea and Refractive Services, at the hospital K.S. Siddharthan says the programmes during the fortnight included announcements through All India Radio and a live question and answer session on eye donation. An awareness talk on Eye Diseases and the Importance of Eye Donation has been organised for September 1. Seminars for college students and one for the general public on September 5 at the hospital are the other programmes.Dr. Siddharthan says the fortnight is observed every year to motivate people to donate eyes. It was introduced in 1986 by late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who pledged his eyes.


But, 22 years hence there is not much increase in the number of eye donations. “In our country, we have an estimated 4.6 million people with corneal blindness. Ninety per cent of them are below the age of 45. Of these people, 60 per cent are below the age of 12. And, 20,000 new cases are added to this figure ever year,” the medical officer says. As against an annual requirement of five lakh to 10 lakh corneas, the current procurement rate is 22,000. Thus the demand for corneal tissue is far greater than its supply. Surgeons are handicapped since adequate number of donor eyes is not available for corneal transplantation. Till date, no other artificial substitute has been made available which can be used for corneal grafting.



The United States has a legislation that enables the removal of corneas from dead persons if they had not registered any objection to donation while they were alive. Introduced in 1975, The Presumed Consent Law says that in these cases consent for donation is presumed and the eyes can be removed. This had led to an increase in the availability of corneas. A similar legislation can change the scenario in India.Another legislation needed is the “required request law” wherein it becomes mandatory for all health care staff institutions coming into contact with bereaved families to make a request for eye donation.



Eye donors could be of any age group, sex or religion. People who use spectacles, or having cataract, or who have undergone eye surgery, diabetics, patients with high blood pressure, asthma, poor eye sight due to glaucoma or retinal disease and those without communicable diseases can also donate eyes. Persons with AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, rabies, septicaemia, acute leukaemia (blood cancer), tetanus, cholera, and infectious diseases such as meningitis, encephalitis and death due to an unknown cause cannot donate eyes.

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