HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, October 23, 2006

Test Tube Babies on PBS

Tonight, American Experience, a terrific program on PBS, will present a show on test tube babies.  It looks like it will be very informative about the early years of IVF.  Here is a brief overview from the PBS website:

This American Experience production tells the story of Dr. Landrum Shettles -- a relentless researcher with a singular obsession with creating the world's first test tube baby -- and John and Doris DelZio, a couple willing to be pioneers in this quest. This one-hour film tells of the social, political and legal challenges that dictated the course of IVF research in the United States.

Haunted by the fear that their laboratory interventions in the natural fertilization process would create malformations in the embryo, researchers faced a slew of daunting obstacles. Colleagues were reluctant to collaborate on work they deemed too controversial and government agencies refused to fund their research, believing testing IVF on humans was premature. Progress also met with fierce cultural opposition. The Catholic Church excoriated scientists for taking "the Lord's work into their own hands," and their research became the locus of debate over the limits of science.

Yet after the birth of the healthy Brown baby, privately funded research gained momentum in the U.S. In the early 1980, Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones opened America's first IVF clinic in Norfolk, Virginia. After more than a year of trial and error, their first success story, Elizabeth Carr, was born. Since then, millions of test tube babies have been born worldwide. The story of the first test tube babies is a precursor of the current debate over cloning and stem cell research.

I am a big fan of the health and science programs on PBS (yes, if you may recall, I did score quite high on that nerd/geek test) but in all seriousness, they are terrific shows and great for class.   Many of the programs are now available on-line and can be assigned before class.  The programs show both sides of a debate and give the debate a human face.  I have found that class discussions have been much more informed and revealing after such shows.

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