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About the Video Clip:

Video Clip Synopsis:
An egg is collected from a woman’s ovary and placed in a test tube to be fertilised by her husband’s sperm. Once the embryo is growing normally it is placed back in the uterus.

1min 11sec

Test Tube Babies is an excerpt from the film Medical and Scientific (12 mins), an episode of the series Australia in the 80s (6 x 12 mins), produced in 1982.

Medical and Scientific: A look at Australia’s contribution to science and medical technology and research in the 1980s including innovations in radio astronomy, solar energy and tools and techniques for medical diagnosis, microsurgery and IVF.

Australia in the 80s: This series gives a kaleidoscopic impression of the vivid variety and vigor of a nation still developing. As absorbing as the screen image, is the fact-filled commentary. Together they produce a lively film to tell the world about Australia in the 80s.

Australia in the 80s was produced by Motion Pictures Associates for Film Australia.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: English
Year: 9-10
Theme: Science Work

Key Concepts

Ethics; ‘Test tube baby’

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Everyday texts – Language: Contextual understanding
NSW:(1997 Syllabus) C5 Mass media
(2003 Syllabus) Stage 5 Outcome 4
NT:R/V 5.1 – 5.3
R/V 5+.1-5+.3
Qld:Cr 6.2
SA:Texts and contexts 5.3
Tas:Communicating – Being literate, Standard 4
Vic:Reading – Texts 6.6
WA:Understanding Language
Attitudes, values and beliefs

Context / Background Information

In the 1970s scientific research was carried out into artificial methods of helping women to conceive who would not otherwise be able to do so.

One aspect involved 'in vitro' fertilisation — literally, 'in glass', referring to the test tubes and dishes involved in the process.

An ovum from a female was fertilised by injection of male sperm outside the womb, then placed in the woman's womb, where it was hoped the embryo would develop naturally to birth.

Some people questioned the ethics of artificially manipulating human procreation in this way.

Australia's first 'test tube baby' was born in 1980.

Discussion Pointers

  1. The video clip shows parts of a scientific and medical process. Does this process seem cold and artificial? Discuss what elements of the video clip lead you to your conclusion.
  2. In what ways are we reminded that this is a procedure that is about people, rather than about scientific principles?
  3. If you knew nothing about this process, and had no moral or ethical ideas about it, what messages would you receive from this video clip?
  4. Is the video clip a neutral presentation, or is it one that deliberately tries to present positive images? Give reasons for your answer.
  5. If this video clip were to be shot by someone who opposed in vitro fertilisation, what could they have done differently?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Research a current issue involving an ethical element. Examples could be the use of frozen fertilised eggs for research into cures for current diseases and medical conditions such as spinal paralysis; a designer baby with the right blood group for saving an older sibling’s life; the development of genetically modified food; testing of cosmetics on animals; human cloning. Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper to report your findings and your own ethical position on the issue.
  2. Prepare a debate: ‘that science is too important to be left to the scientists’.
  3. Work as a group to prepare a hypothetical situation involving one of the issues mentioned above which you can present to the class. In the hypothetical you have to set up an initial situation and then create a series of crises or developments that have several options. Consequences follow from each option. Present this to the class, nominating students as ‘experts’ in certain areas — such as a doctor, research scientist dependent on research for a job, a religious person whose beliefs forbid the scientific development, and so on. You will need to prepare brief ‘position papers’ explaining to students who their character is and what they believe in. Work through all the situations, then lead a class discussion about the outcomes and the issues raised.

Modules That Use This Clip

English Year 9-10, Science Year 9-10, Science Year 11-12