Should Donors Consent to Export Their Corneas? Examination of Eye Tissue and Eye Care Sector

Should Donors Consent to Export Their Corneas? Examination of Eye Tissue and Eye Care Sector
Heather Machin, Gerard Sutton, Paul N. Baird
Cornea, 1 December 2020
Corneal tissue international activity is only possible because of the willingness of export populations to donate their corneas on their death. Current predonation public education campaigns and at-the-point-of-donation consent practice generally includes consent for transplantation, research, and/or training. It is unclear whether a consent-for-export step is universally included in the consent process or, indeed, whether it should. We interviewed eye tissue and eye care professionals from around the world, who exported, imported, or did neither to understand current consent-for-export awareness and determine opinion on future practice.
During wider qualitative grounded-theory semistructured interviews with sector experts, to determine whether Australia should export, we captured sector opinion on consent-for-export. We used saturation and sentiment methods to determine opinion and χ2 correlation coefficients to examine association, using an α of P = 0.05.
We interviewed 92 individuals, 83 of whom discussed consent-for-export. Of those, 51% (42/83) demonstrated some awareness of the practice; however, there were contradictions between interviewees from the same location. Regardless of current awareness, 57% (41/72) believed donors should be informed or consented for export. Their approval did not extend to donor-directed decisions, which would allow donors to decide which nation their donation should be sent, with 62.5% (45/72) opposing that notion.
Our research indicates that the consent-for-export practice is not universally applied by exporting nations and that eye tissue and eye care professionals have limited awareness of the practice. Universally implementing a consent-for-export step within general consent practice would improve awareness, reduce confusion, and support donor wishes.

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