Tissue donation is a possibility for many patients who have died

Tissue donation is a possibility for a large number of patients who have died; however, this is not a familiar topic in palliative care and can lead to difficult conversations. [1] Corneal donation is one such example; while many patients are eligible and have expressed a wish to become a donor, barriers to discussing donation can prevent this from happening. Barriers include concerns by health professionals regarding lack of knowledge, and concerns about enucleation. [2] As a result, donation levels remain low, with one study in Sydney describing a donation rate of only 2.5% from palliative care inpatient units. [3] Yet if the topic is approached in a sensitive manner it can have a positive effect on bereavement.

Suitability for tissue donation is determined after death has occurred and each case needs to be assessed individually, as there can be contraindications. The age of the person who has died, is not a contraindication.

Some patients may wish to donate their bodies to science in the hope of assisting others through research.

This information was drawn from the following resources:


  1. Gillon S, Hurlow A, Rayment C, Zacharias H, Lennard R. Obstacles to corneal donation amongst hospice inpatients: a questionnaire survey of multi-disciplinary team member's attitudes, knowledge, practice and experience. Palliat Med. 2012 Oct;26(7):939-46. Epub 2011 Sep 9.
  2. Roach R, Broadbent AM. Eye donation in Sydney metropolitan palliative care units. J Palliat Med. 2010 Feb;13(2):121-3. 
  3. Stiel S, Hermel M, Radbruch L. Cornea donation from patients deceased at a palliative care unit. Palliat Med. 2011 Mar;25(2):183-4. (No abstract available).

Last updated 20 August 2021