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Funeral Professionals

Beautiful white flowers sit in front of a dark wood casket

Eye banks and funeral professionals can achieve far more together than alone when both partners work together with solidarity.

Donation is a very intimate choice either made by the donor prior to death or made by the family following death.  When the decision to donate is made, the family’s grief is expected to be aided by donation.  Funeral professionals play a significant role in facilitating these expectations alongside the eye bank. If you have any questions regarding donation, or the role that the Lions Medical Eye Bank plays, please contact us at

What kind of religious restrictions are there to consider for donation?

Most religions have no restrictions regarding organ and tissue donation. In fact, the vast majority of faiths are united in their encouragement of donation as an act of neighborly love and charity. However, due to a variety of interpretations of scriptures and other religious literature, there are some exceptions. These exceptions range from region to region. Families are encouraged to discuss donation and faith with their local clergy to address any questions they may have. For more information regarding general religious perspectives on donation, please view the following website:


As a Funeral Professional, how should I approach a family regarding donation?

Please, do not approach a family about donation. There are many reasons for this. First, the decedent’s health history must be screened to determine eligibility for donation prior to any discussion with the family. Second, Lions Medical Eye Bank and Research Center of Eastern Virginia staff are trained to answer some difficult questions about donation with a much broader range of subject matter than just the effect on the funeral. If a family approaches you please record their name(s) and contact information (where they will be in over the next few hours), then call the eye bank at 757-388-5809 to speak to a Donor Coordinator.


The decedent is already at the funeral home and the family has asked if they can donate. Can corneas be recovered under these conditions?

Yes we can, assuming the decedent is eligible for donation from a medical screening perspective and consent for donation has been obtained. A quick call to the eye bank to discuss details of the family’s needs can help move things along more quickly. Though it is preferred that recovery of tissue occurs at the hospital for accessibility to medical information, recovery can occur in a funeral home. The major concern is time. Corneal tissue degrades rapidly after death. To ensure good stewardship of donated tissue and handling of the body, it is preferred that tissue preservation occurs as quickly as possible (goal is within 12 hours, since tissue degrades over time if not preserved). After 24 hours, the tissue is no longer viable for donation. Refrigeration of the tissue is a concern as well. If a funeral home is without a refrigerator large enough for a decedent, elevating the head and placing light ice packs over closed eyelids can accomplish ocular cooling. Cooling ocular surfaces also aids in the restoration of the body for a viewing.  The eye bank will need to know the time body or eye cooling began.

A woman stands at a casket in a funeral home. There are candles in soft focus in the foreground.

How will cornea/eye donation affect an open casket service?

It shouldn’t. In most cases there are no outward visible signs that donation has occurred. In some rare situations the cause of death or a pre-existing condition may intensify the otherwise unnoticeable swelling around the eye area. In these cases a cold compress of wet gauze and/or a pre-injection of an anti-edema/ astringent embalming fluid should clear the tissues of any swelling. The eye bank works

with funeral homes to do everything possible to ensure that a decedent can be prepared by the funeral home in such a way as to aid in the family’s grieving process.  Body/ocular cooling and head elevation are processes we advocate to assist with restoration procedures.

I’m concerned about the appearance of the decedent after donation. If the body of the decedent is to be viewed, how should the eye cavity be treated?

Prior to setting the features of the decedent, treat the eyes as you would if you were embalming. Start by removing any fluid you can. Then soak some gauze or web rolled cotton with a cauterizing agent and place it in the cavity, this will stop any bleeding. Placement of eye caps will give the eye it’s familiar rounded appearance and a thin coat of petroleum jelly applied to the lids will close them. This extra effort on your part will ensure that the family has the best possible viewing experience after donation, which reflects well on their grieving. Helping the family through their grieving process is the most important aspect of everything the eye bank and the funeral home does.


Are you the same as LifeNet Health?

We are proud to work closely with LifeNet Health, but the Lions Medical Eye Bank and Research Center of Eastern Virginia is a separate organization. More information about LifeNet Health may be found online at or by calling LifeNet Health at 757-464-4761.

What is the difference between organ donation, tissue donation, eye donation, and body donation? If someone is a donor what will be taken?

Eye donation includes donation of whole eyes or corneas only. In Hampton Roads, eye donation is facilitated by the Lions Medical Eye Bank and Research Center of Eastern Virginia. Organ donation is the donation of solid organs, like heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, etc. In most cases, to be an organ donor, a patient must be brain dead, but alive by cardiac measures. Tissue donation can occur after cardiac death and includes donation of heart valves, skin, bone, fascia lata, etc. In the Tidewater region, both organ and tissue donation are facilitated by LifeNet Health. If a decedent is an organ or tissue donor, there is great likelihood that the patient is an eye donor as well, though the criteria for each donation type are different. If a decedent is a whole-body donor, eye donation may still occur. In fact, decedents who donate a whole body for scientific or medical purposes are often willing and suitable eye donors.

A black and white photo of family and friends in rows of chairs at a viewing

Why should a Funeral Director assist an eye bank?

Core to their Missions, donation agencies and the Funeral Service are about serving the public -- more specifically, healing families. Anyone involved in post mortem care of a person has a legal and ethical obligation to carry out decisions related to organ, tissue, and eye donation. If a decedent or a family has consented to donation, the eye bank and the funeral home share the same goal with respect to that decision and should work together in any way possible to ensure that not only is the donation carried out, but that the body is presentable.

Eye banks and funeral professionals can achieve far more together than alone when both partners work together with solidarity.

Why does it take so long for the eye bank to complete the donation process?

The longest interval in the donation process is that period during which the next-of-kin is notified of a death and takes a moment to grieve. The eye bank allows next-of-kin to leave the hospital and return to comfortable surroundings prior to offering the option of donation. Sometimes, the next-of-kin does not go directly to a location that corresponds to the phone number provided to the hospital. In these situations, the eye bank is aware of time constraints for both ocular health concerns as well as funeral home concerns. We aim to work together to ensure that the family who has lost a loved one gets the highest level of service possible from all agencies.  When the eye bank experiences difficulty reaching next-of-kin, the funeral home can assist by contacting next-of-kin to aid their receipt of contact by the eye bank.

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