30 A-level students from the Centre for Science at Camborne Pool Redruth College took part in a workshop exploring biological and medical ethics linked to the Science world as part of their A-level syllabus. The Exstream Theatre Company, made up of graduates from the University of Exeter, produced a workshop and dropped in to the Science Department to touch on issues such as in-vitro fertilisation selection of embryos and the selection of embryos for physical characteristics or cloning.
The project was formed in summer 2002 with a grant from The Wellcome Trust to tour the interactive Theatre in Education programme. The group formed to inform students in Schools, Colleges and Universities about the issues and to allow them to explore sensitive topics.
This particular workshop was based on a fictional character called Anna who suffers from a life threatening, inherited condition called Fanconi's Anaemia. Her parents were willing to have another child by in-vitro fertilisation in order to supply stem cells to help Anna's condition. However, this is a touchy subject because the embryos may also carry the same genetic defect unless they are screened and those carrying the defect destroyed. The students were investigating whether this procedure should be legalised.
The workshop left many students thinking more deeply about the ethical issues involved and wanting to find out more information. One of the students, Harriet Martin, commented: "It was an enjoyable, challenging experience, it made me think about the ethical and personal issues involved." With more publicity in the media about cloning and sex selection of embryos, these types of projects help students to look at both sides of the story and make up their own minds. Head of Science, Phil Knight, commented: " The play very successfully illustrated the real and heartbreaking dilemmas faced by scientists, doctors and families involved in making decisions about embryo selection. Our students found it a thought provoking and moving experience."