Saving sight

For most of us, the thought of donating your organs to others at the time of your death is new, and therefore, perhaps, frightening.

Therefore, we must commend those who have gone through the thought process and decided to donate their bodies or organs to someone who is in need of it.

A little more than 90 people have pledged to donate their eyes, or more specifically, their corneas to the eye bank in Thimphu since it opened in 2014. The cornea is the transparent cover in the front of the eye that allows light to pass through it into the retina.

The number is small but value of those 180 corneas is immeasurable.

A 2009 study found that there are 10,000 people who are visually impaired from corneal blindness in Bhutan, while 15,000 are visually impaired in one eye.

Today, there are 230 patients registered with the eye bank requiring cornea transplants.

Clearly, there is a need for more corneas.

But more has to be done.

The first obstacle is our religious beliefs.

There is a need for the health sector to partner with religious leaders to publicly debate and determine if there is anything wrong, morally, or according to religion, to leaving your corneas to benefit another.

If a consensus can be reached, then members of both the medical sector and religious bodies could lead by example and register to donate their corneas. This should put to ease any reluctance to donate corneas based on religious grounds.

The health sector also needs to let the public know how the procedure is carried out. Maybe some are worried that the entire eyeball is removed. Such potential donors need to know that it is only the front layer of the eyeball.

More awareness also has to be raised that there is a large need for corneas in the country. And that donations can help to give sight to those visually impaired, so that they may lead full lives, just as everyone else.

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