American Experience (1988– )
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Test Tube Babies 

The world's first successful in-vitro fertilization takes place in Great Britain resulting in a live birth on July 25,1978.


Chana Gazit, Robin Marantz Henig (story)


Blair Brown


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Episode credited cast:
Blair Brown ... Self - Narrator (voice)


The world's first successful in-vitro fertilization takes place in Great Britain resulting in a live birth on July 25,1978.

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Very interesting and informative...but also very incomplete.
19 November 2011 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

I thought this episode was extremely well least until near the end. Then, oddly, the show seemed to lose direction and left the viewer with some false impressions--and it seemed more like a film made to encourage business for infertility doctors than a documentary giving all sides to this complex issue. More about this later...

The film begins with a history if in-vitro fertilization. I was really surprised how early the research into all this began--decades before such procedures succeeded on the first human patients. However, oddly, the research was soon abandoned and forgotten. Then, almost three decades later it was resuscitated and soon the first so-called 'test tube babies' were born. This portion of the film was fascinating and very compelling.

What bothered me, then, was that instead of talking about the implications of the procedures, the film just ended by making a statement that millions of babies owe their existence to the procedure. But what about the implications--and I am NOT talking, necessarily, about the moral implications but the practical ones. What is the actual cost of such procedures (it's actually very high and with relatively low success rates)? Does insurance pay for it? And, when it does, could the money be better spent elsewhere considering the low success rates? If medicine is socialized, will the government pay for these procedures? What is the emotion and physical toll of the infertility procedures on the patient and her family? In what situations is IVF more likely to succeed and in which is it less likely to succeed? Is it moral to do these procedures with ALL patients? What if the patients are elderly or in a bad marriage? Many more questions come to mind--and none of them are addressed in any meaningful way in the film. Instead, it plays more like a strong endorsement of the procedures--like it was sponsored by the doctors themselves. How can you talk about infertility and not talk about any of this? Just my two-cents worth...

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Release Date:

23 October 2006 (USA) See more »

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WGBH See more »
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