CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: The Ethics of Xenotransplantation

Social Studies, English Language Arts, Science
3 to 5 lessons
To examine issues of medical ethics; to develop and support a position
Students will develop a position paper to present to the WHO about the ethical use of a new medical protocol touted to be a cure for diabetes.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Explain to students that since the discovery of insulin in 1921, much time and money has been used to continue the search for a cure for diabetes. Now, a team of medical researchers has reported that they have discovered a way to cure diabetes. The new protocol requires a pancreatic cell transplant, using cells from an animal. This raises several ethical questions, such as:


Should animal cells be transplanted into humans?

Who makes the decision to use a protocol such as this?

Who decides which patients will benefit from the protocol if it has limited availability?

Pose the questions to students and hold a class discussion to ascertain their understanding of medical ethics.

Record students' viewpoints so they can refer to them once their research is complete.

Outline the Opportunity

Pose the following situation to students: The World Health Organization has struck a committee to advise on the widespread use of this new medical protocol that purports to be a cure for diabetes. Students will work in groups of four to develop a position paper to present at a WHO meeting.

To begin their research, students will examine the clips on the topic Chasing a Cure for Diabetes on the CBC Digital Archives website , paying particular attention to the clips titled "No more needles", "Artificial insulin", "The Edmonton Protocol", "Searching for a cure for diabetes", "Fishing for a cure for diabetes", "The drinkable cure?" and "Controversy over xenotransplantation".

Within their groups, students will view the material from different perspectives: someone who has diabetes, a medical professional, a research scientist involved in the development of the protocol, and a politician. Students can do additional research if they wish.

Once students have gathered the information, they should present it to their group. Within the group, students must come to a consensus regarding the position they will take in their presentation. As a group, they write their position paper.

Revisit and Reflect

Students will present their position paper to the class, who will represent the World Health Organization. They should be prepared to answer any questions that may arise.

Assessment Tip
Assess students on the clarity, persuasiveness, and organization of the arguments presented in their position paper. Students can also assess their peers based on the clarity and persuasiveness of the arguments presented.

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