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Making Better Babies: Genetics & Reproduction
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Viewer's Guide

Pre- and Post-Viewing Questions

This viewer's guide divides the program into three segments, each with a specific theme. The questions are organized accordingly. To find a particular segment on the videotape, begin by setting the counter to 00:00 when you first see the Fred Friendly logo. Then, fast forward to the section in which you are interested.

Theme of Segment 1: The decision to undergo prenatal testing is complicated.

Questions to consider before watching Segment 1 (from 00:00 to 19:04 on the videotape counter):

  • Every day, more and more genetic tests are available to prospective parents. With the help of a genetic counselor, would you choose to screen your child for certain diseases? If it were possible, would you like to learn about other traits or attributes the fetus might possess?


  • In this scenario, a thirty-five-year old woman is pregnant. Her obstetrician recommends an amniocentesis, a test that can screen the fetus for genetic defects. As you watch the episode, put yourself in her position in that doctor's office. How would you decide whether to have the test?
After watching Segment 1:
  • Bioethicist Adrienne Asch presses molecular biologist Lee Silver and journalist Meredith Vieira to explain the nature of the difference between conditions like asthma and Down's syndrome, and strongly suggests that they want to have a "particular kind of child." Is her charge justified? What about her concern about making society more accommodating for all kinds of choices—and children—including those with serious genetic disorders?


  • If you were Lee or Meredith, what would you want to get out of your visit with the genetic counselor?


  • How do you think genetic information will change the way that we make decisions about terminating a pregnancy or carrying it to term? How would the risk factors and the severity of a possible genetic disorder affect your decision? How relevant is the potential quality of life of the parents and extended family of a severely handicapped child?


  • Who is entitled to assess the fetus' potential quality of life?

Theme of Segment 2: Genetic tests reveal only probabilities, which make decisions difficult.

Questions to consider before watching Segment 2 (from 19:04 to 32:18 on the videotape counter):
  • Suppose your sister and brother-in-law undergo genetic testing. The test reveals a 95 percent probability that their child will be born normal, but there is a 5 percent chance of severe mental and physical handicaps. What advice do you think you would give them? If you were in their shoes, what information might be helpful to you?
After watching Segment 2:
  • Genetic counselor Barbara Biesecker acknowledges to Lee and Meredith that "we actually don't have sufficient information or data to know what this is going to mean for the baby." Should the family doctor or genetic counselor present the parents with information if it is vague, even imprecise? Could withholding it be justified?


  • Training in genetics is only a small part of the ongoing education in which all doctors are required to participate. What responsibility do they and other healthcare professionals have in helping families deal with the kinds of decisions growing out of these emerging reproductive technologies?

Theme of Segment 3: As reproductive technology advances, parents may be able to enhance embryos in ways we can only now imagine.

Questions to consider before watching Segment 3 (from 32:18 to the end on the videotape counter):
  • Reproductive technology is evolving at a dizzying pace. With today's technologies, we are able to screen embryos for many abnormalities. How would you feel if someone in your family decided to do this? What if some day technologies became available to screen for traits like height or musical ability? How would you feel if prospective parents screened for these types of traits?


  • In this segment, a couple no longer able to conceive naturally is confronted with the possibility of cloning their beloved daughter, who was killed in a car accident. If you were in their position, and were assured that the procedure was medically safe, what concerns and considerations might govern your decision?
After watching Segment 3:
  • As Faye Wattleton, President of the Center for Gender Equality, reminds us in this part of the program, choice is the essence of reproductive rights. In addition to screening your embryos for those most likely to be healthy, suppose the technology existed to screen for traits like resistance to certain diseases. Arguing that it's the parents' responsibility to provide their children with the best chance at success in life, your spouse is all in favor. How do you feel about trying to ensure the best traits for your offspring? Would the fact that this option is available only to those who can afford it affect your decision? What responsibility does society have to those who can't pay for such tests?


  • What's your opinion of Dr. Rosenwaks' contention that humans will never be commercially cloned? If, however, this comes to pass, what do you think the major social repercussions of human cloning could be?

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