The following activities are intended to follow a unit on human reproduction. In light of the increasing number of infertile couples in the United States, these activities can be used to introduce several currently used methods of assisted reproduction including in vitro fertilization and cryopreservation, and to generate discussion of ethical issues related to these procedures.
Preparation time needed: the only preparation required is for copying student sheets. For the placemat activity, the questions may be cut and pasted so that both items are on the same 11" x 14" sheet prior to duplication or they may be printed on separate paper. For use on the longer paper, the questions can be typed in an 8 point font in a single column. The placemat shown was set-up using a word-perfect table in letter landscape. It has been rotated and shrunk in the materials section for illustration purposes only.
Class time needed:
These activities help students answer:
1. what forms of assisted reproduction are currently available
2. under what circumstances assisted reproduction may be used
3. what viewpoints may be involved
4. how to make an informed decision concerning an ethical issue
Introduction:: Several students will
be assigned roles designed to stimulate discussion concerning some
of the ethical issues involved in the implantation of frozen
Purpose: The purpose of this exercise is to provide a vehicle for students to begin thinking about various factors and viewpoints that may be involved in deciding whether the implantation of frozen embryos is a reasonable action.
Materials: hard copies of scenario
resources for background information
Procedure: Students involved in the role-playing will read the description for their part and will enter the discussion assuming the role assigned as directed by the moderator (the instructor or a student). If the roles are assigned prior to the day of the activity, the students involved will do research that will help them play their role effectively.
Meeting of the Committee to Oversee Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos
Called to consider a request to implant stored embryos following the divorce of the parents.
Background: Human embryos retrieved during in vitro fertilization procedures may be frozen in liquid nitrogen (cryopreservation) and stored for decades. Current technology results in 5-12 embryos per treatment cycle. Legal principles concerning this relatively new procedure are not firmly established. Currently, legal ownership of embryos belongs to the married couple from whom the gametes were obtained. When there is no legal marriage, the woman signing the consent form is the owner.
Ms. Ima D. Vorsay wants to have her 3 stored embryos implanted. The embryos were obtained while she was married to Mr. A. Newman.
The committee is composed of four individuals who are knowledgeable about current reproductive technology and are concerned about the ethical treatment of stored embryos.
Ms. D. Vorsay - a 43 year old woman whose first attemps to achieve pregnancy through IVF failed. She has since been divorced but still wants to try to have her own child.
Mr. Newman - Ms. D. Vorsay is his ex-wife. He has remarried and now has two children. He has had a restraining order issued to block the use of his frozen embryos and wants to have them destroyed.
Mr. U. R. Okay - a mental health expert. He conducted Ms. Vorsay's patient interview. He is against allowing the procedure. Ms. Vorsay is single, has a limited network of friends, and is currently taking care of her elderly mother who is near death.
Ms. E. Array - a lawyer hired by Ms. Vorsay. She specializes in reproductive technology cases and argues that since the divorce, the embryos are the property of the mother, Ima Vorsay, and that any children that might develop have the right to be raised by their biological mother.
Dr. I.M. Sure - the doctor runs the assisted reproduction technology (art) clinic storing the embryos in question. He states that Ima meets the criteria for accepting patients. She is capable of experiencing a healthy, successful pregnancy, does not have serious psychiatric disabilities, and is able to pay for the procedure.
Following brief statements from each witness, the public will be invited
to make short comments. The committee members may question the witnesses
and will then confer to make their recommendation.
Case Study Concerning In Vitro
Introduction: There are a number of new technologies that have been developed to assist infertile couples in their attempt to have children. One such technique is called In Vitro Fertilization (sometimes erroneously called test-tube babies).
Purpose: The purpose of this
case study is to encourage students to spend time generating multiple solutions
when faced with any dilemma and to give them practice using one form of
decision-making model for choosing a solution.
Materials: hard copies of question/case study sheet
1. Each group of students will use resource materials, including but not limited to the internet, to accurately answer the questions at the top of the hand-out.
2. Once the background information has been completed, each student is expected to read the case study at the bottom of the page and generate 5 separate solutions to the situation described.
3. When all members of the group have written individual solutions, they will share their ideas and make a list of the five "best" solutions. It is important to remember that the solution does not have to appeal to a student to be viable.
4. The group now needs to choose 5 criteria by which to judge the solutions. These criteria will vary from group to group. The students in the group must reach a consensus as to what criteria fit the situation and reflect the attitudes and values of the members of the group. Common criteria selected include but are not limited to such features as cost, religious viewpoints, health risks, legal issues, etc. Students should make a chart listing the criteria across the top and the solutions down the side. Brainstorming may be used to generate a list of possible criteria.
5. Students next discuss the criteria one at a time assigning a rank to each solution with 1 being assigned to the best solution concerning that criteria and 5 assigned to the poorest. Once the chart is completed, the points are totaled and the solution with the lowest total score should be the best solution for the situation. If the group is not happy with the solution, they should rethink their criteria or try to generate more potential solutions.
6. The final step is to list 3 reasons other people might not agree with the solution chosen.
7. Each group will turn in one set of question answers and will present their solutions and explain their choice. Students are encouraged to present this information in the form of a skit. Other students are encourage to comment but not judge.
Background Information (use sources no more than 2 years old when possible)
1. What does the expression "in vitro fertilization" mean?
What is the stated success rate for
2. Who was the world's first test-tube baby ? When and where was she born?
3. Explain the process involved. You may make posters or transparencies to illustrate.
4. What are the costs for this procedure and what is included?
5. Under what circumstances might a couple choose to try IVF?
6. How might this process be used to choose the sex of a child?
7. Since more than one egg is fertilized at once, list 4 options for dealing with the embryos.
8. How many IVF clinics are operating in the United States?
The success of this exercise depends upon your ability to picture yourself actually involved in the scenario described.
You (the husband) are 36 and your wife is 35. You have been trying to achieve a pregnancy for 5 years without success. Following a battery of tests, it was determined that your sperm count is high enough but that your wife's Fallopian tubes will not allow an ovum to reach the uterus. You both have decided against several options already, including adoption and use of a surrogate. Your fertility expert explained IVF as another option. You both decided to take this opportunity. Several eggs were recovered and six are developing normally. Studies have shown that implanting more than 3 embryos is too risky. What ought you do with the six embryos?
Methods of Evaluation/Assessment to top
1. Placemat: Students will
hand-in the question section that accompanies the placemat. The questions
could be used as a homework grade but may be collected for a drawing for
some small reward. One answer sheet is drawn from those turned in.
The answers are gone over in class and should the answers on the sheet
drawn be incorrect, another is drawn in its place.
2. There is no formal assessment intended for the role-playing activity.
3. Case Study: Evaluation methods may vary here. Part of the grade for each group is for
providing accurate information concerning the procedures involved in In Vitro Fertilization and
cryopreservation. The remainder of the grade is for the group presentation concerning the
decision-making process. Role-playing to illustrate their decision-making is encouraged.