In the first few weeks of the programme, there have been eight successful transplants — restoring sight to eight people aged between 20 and 94.
A further 10 corneas have been sent to the national “eye bank” ready to be transplanted.
A&E consultant Brodie Paterson said that, unlike major organs such as hearts and lungs, corneal tissue ccould be stored for months and there was no age limit for donors.
“The oldest donor nationally was 101 and the oldest recipient was 103,” Mr Paterson said.
He said people needed cornea transplants after eyes had been damaged by accident or disease.
But many perfectly functioning corneas were being wasted because no one locally was actively approaching bereaved relatives and requesting permission to harvest corneal tissue.
Now trained nurses check the national organ donor register for the name of everyone who dies in Ninewells’ and PRI’s A&E departments and, if they have expressed a wish to donate tissue, the “nurse requesters” approach relatives for permission to remove the eyes, a procedure performed by local eye surgeons.
Mr Paterson said many relatives took comfort from knowing that someone would get their sight back thanks to the donation.
“It is a very positive experience, a bit of good happening at the most dreadful time,” he said.
Gillian Harvey, one of the nurse requesters at Ninewells, has a very special understanding of what she is asking relatives to do. Her husband Colin was 57 when he suffered a sudden, catastrophic bleed and died.
The couple, both nurses, had discussed a mutual desire to donate their organs in the event of death. Gillian even took time on her honeymoon to notify the organ donation authorities of her new details.
“We had just got married and were at the airport on our honeymoon. There were forms for organ donation and I wanted to let them know my name had changed,” Gillian said.
In recent years, details of potential donors have been stored electronically and people are no longer required to fill out and carry cards.
Nurse requester Moira Macleod said many different organisations took the opportunity to ask people to register their wishes and when she approached grieving relatives they were often unaware the deceased had expressed their wishes to the DVLA when applying for a driving licence.
More than 17 million people in Britain have joined the donor register. Anyone wishing to add their name can call 0300 1232323 or go to the NHS Blood and Transplant website.