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Guidelines developed to protect eye banks

MEDIA RELEASE

Thousands of people are needlessly blind because they live in a country where they have no access to donated corneal tissue. Every day, surgeons in these communities face the challenge of securing the corneas needed to save sight from eye banks elsewhere – often in places like Australia or New Zealand.

To help ensure that eye banks in Australia and New Zealand are better prepared to answer such calls for help, yesterday the Eye Bank Association of Australia and New Zealand (EBAANZ) ratified its first-ever Bioethical Framework at its annual meeting in Perth.

Heather Machin of the Lions Eye Donation Service (LEDS) at the Centre for Eye Research Australia is one of the authors of the framework.

“In recent years eye banks in Australia and New Zealand have received increasing approaches from colleagues in other countries for humanitarian services,” Heather explained.  “We realised that we needed to work out who we will support and why, and how we will respond to such requests. The Framework will now help guide those decisions as we work together to support waiting recipients overseas. Importantly, it will also ensure that those waiting for transplants within our own countries remain our first priority.”

Australia and New Zealand have highly professional and regulated eye donation services designed to take account of the needs of donors, their families, and the recipients. Tissue is cared for in a specialised manner to ensure safety. The new Bioethics Framework will ensure these services remain at a high standard and are not compromised under pressure from growing international demand.

“We are launching this Framework at a time when there is growing global awareness of the importance of ethics in relation to human transplantation. In working up our Framework, we were inspired by our peers in the organ donation sector who have developed the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism, and we have had encouragement for this work from the World Health Organization,” she continued. 

The Framework, which was jointly drafted by Heather and bioethicist Dr Dominique Martin from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Health Equity, has now been ratified by eye banks in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Auckland.

It sets out strategies for caring for donors and their wishes; ethical collaborations and interactions with the local, national and global eye care communities and governments; the need for policy and training; how, where and why tissue will be shared; and how we can support our global colleagues through humanitarian services while ensuring Australia and New Zealand recipients remain a priority.

ENDS

About the Lions Eye Donation Service

The Lions Eye Donation Service is a joint venture between Lions Clubs of Victoria and Southern New South Wales, the Centre for Eye Research Australian, and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. It routinely provides corneas and sclera for transplantation and research across Victoria and Tasmania. In 2014 LEDS provided around 400 corneas for transplant. www.cera.org.au

About the Eye Bank Association of Australia & New Zealand

A not-for-profit organisation, and the peak body for eye donation and transplantation services in Australia and New Zealand. It is dedicated to; helping restore sight, provide national and international leadership, maintain standards and advocate for the eye banking sector. www.ebaanz.org

Media Contact

Heather Machin, (03) 9929 8377, +61 412 581 881, heather.machin@unimelb.edu.au

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