The Desperate Dozen

This is an introductory lesson for anatomy and physiology that I use as an icebreaker during the first few days of school. Students start learning classroom norms, particularly how to work in groups and what group expectations are.

In this activity, students must decide the order in which hearts will be allocated to people needing transplants. There are several factors to consider, such as the age of the patient, critical need, immunology match and their ability to pay.

There are not right or wrong answers, and the idea is to prompt discussions about how medical resources are allocated. This could also be a good activity for any bioethics unit.

As a follow-up, students can learn about organ donor lists and how patients are prioritized and compare the real guidelines to the ones they had decided on. This article by the Department of Health and Human Services describes how organs are allocated.

Grade Level: 9-12
Time Required: 20-30 minutes