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New Womb?

  • GCSE
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Group discussion
Topic: Tissues & organs

US doctors are planning the world's first ever womb transplant. The operation brings hope to women who, until now, could not imagine having babies of their own.
In this activity, students become an NHS ethics and funding committee. They consider ethical arguments and decide whether or not the NHS should fund non-vital transplants, like those of wombs, hands and faces.

This activity is designed to be used in conjunction with the Simpletons activity: a tool for teaching ethical thinking. We suggest using Simpletons to teach students how to think from different ethical perspectives. New Womb then allows students to practise the same ethical styles in a different context.

14-16 How Science Works:
4b: consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues.

Published: 31st January 2007
Reviews & Comments: 5

Learning objectives

Students will learn to apply different ethical approaches to making a decision about non-vital transplants

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

14 – 16 How science works: data, evidence, theories and explanations
• 4b: consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues, and about the social, economic and environmental effects of such decisions

14 – 16 GCSE specifications

Edexcel core B1a - genes
• Describe the social and ethical concerns of cloning mammals, including the possibility of the cloning of human body parts for transplant surgery

OCR Gateway additional B3 – living and growing
• State problems with transplants

Running the activity

Display page 1. This gives the context and sets the task: decide whether the NHS should fund non-vital transplants. Tell students that, traditionally, organ transplants save lives. They are common and generally accepted as ethical. Now, surgeons can transplant non-vital organs, like hands, faces and wombs. These transplants raise new ethical questions. Today's activity focuses on the ethics of uterus – or womb – transplants.

Pages 3, 4, 5 and 6 are posters that summarise one ethical approach each. Photocopy these onto A3 and display in different (accessible) parts of the classroom.

Page 2 gives 12 ethical arguments. The same arguments are on 12 PowerPoint slides. Use the arguments in one of the following ways:

EITHER: Copy page 2 two or three times and cut into cards. Give each student – or pair – a card. Tell them to associate their card with an ethical approach and move to the relevant poster. Once there, discuss the arguments with others by the same poster and decide if they are in the right place. Repeat at least once, having given each student a different card.

OR: Ask more able students to devise their own arguments, one or two associated with each ethical approach. Then continue with the activity as described in 'either' above. You might like to display one or two of the PowerPoint slides first to give students some ideas.

OR: Display Slide 1. Tell students to move to the relevant poster. Repeat for some – or all – of the other 11 slides.

Then use page 7 to conclude the activity and assess learning:

EITHER: Students fill in one of the forms/boxes. They display their completed form next to the appropriate poster, and stand by it. Lead a class discussion to decide whether or not the NHS should fund non-vital transplants.

OR: In groups of 4, each student fills in a different box. The group then decides whether or not the NHS should fund non-vital transplants.

OR: Ask students to fill in all the forms/boxes. Lead a class discussion to make the decision.

Answers: page 2 arguments: Rights-based – cards 1, 6 and 7; Self-centred – 2 and 9; Care-based – cards 3, 8, 10 and 11; utilitarian – 4, 5 and 12. Of course, these answers are open to discussion.

News links

BBC news
Story about non-essential transplants
BBC news
Another story about non-essential transplants

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?


Apr 27th, 2013

4 Star

Looks like a good activity, not had chance to use it yet

Reviewer: Racahel Scullion


May 27th, 2012

5 Star

this is a good website for science lessons and test.
It would be best if we could get the test papers for each year group for free

Reviewer: sharmini ramanathn

Biology - Lifecare 21st Century

Jan 21st, 2009

5 Star

An excellent activity for lower ability doing the applied additional science. Works really well to stimulate ethical debate and most importantly, getting them thinking about the role of the NHS and the difficulties it faces in 'balancing the books'!


Reviewer: Seran Bradley

How science works.

Nov 21st, 2007

5 Star

My bright Year 9 students responded very well to this activity which drew interesting comments from many in our discussion of the proposed transplant. The graphics introduced the ethical/financial issues most effectively in a way that engaged and challenged the students.

Reviewer: Linda Brennen

New womb

Feb 19th, 2007

5 Star

Imaginative way to introduce ethical decision making at KS4 as well as enhancing our reproduction topic in year 7. It genrates lots of discussion.

Reviewer: jane wheeler