Heart Surgery

Groupwork activity relating to decision making, consequences and co-operation

The students are split into groups and together they read the task from the worksheet. It is explained to them that they are about to make a difficult decision – they have to select one person (patient) whose life they are going to save, while others who are not selected are likely to die. It is all in their hands. The students discuss the individual patients and reach unanimous decision based on a compromise.
Their task is not just choosing one patient, but also explaining why he/she was chosen and justify why other patients were left out. The students are reminded that they are professional doctors and must make decisions accordingly – be impartial.
As soon as all “surgeon teams” make their decisions, each group appoints a spokesperson. Each spokesperson then comes in front of the blackboard and presents the decision of his/her group with justification.
The activity concludes with a discussion of the whole class. The questions are asked by the teacher and react to the activity and the students’ opinions.

How this resource relates to Shaping Characters objectives

  • Attitudes and attributes
  • Education techniques

Actual outcomes

Educational objective: Putting oneself in the place of an expert (surgeon) and reaching unanimous decision of the group based on a compromise; making decisions objectively, without prejudice.
Realising the seriousness of such decision and the elated responsibility.
Qualities in focus: Cooperation, respect, reverence
Target group, age of the students: 14–15 years of age
Suitable for: Practical Activities (9th grade – career choice), Citizenship Education

Resources required

Worksheet, issues to debate

Time needed

45 minutes

What could have been done differently or is planned for future repeats?

The student really liked the activity. A lively discussion started in each group soon after setting the task. Each student wanted to say and assert his/her opinion. It was obvious that everyone wanted to take part and do their bits. Although the views differed in each group at first, each group gradually reached a compromise and unanimous decision, thus meeting the objective. The students got used to their roles very well.
I’d like to point out some negative opinions with slightly racist implications, primarily regarding patients number 1, 4 and 5, a fact that must be eliminated in the students. This can be addressed in the discussion. I also recommend emphasising before the activity that as professional surgeons, the students must be strictly impartial.

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