It's so easy to talk about sacrifice and altruism and far more difficult to make them a reality. Turns out, it is even harder still to ask someone else to do it.

Professor Michael Taber of St. Mary's College of Maryland asked students in his Altruism and Egoism class to decide if he should donate a kidney. It's a decision he has been trying to make for some time now, and he decided to pose the question to his students.

Of course, Taber gave himself an out, "I told [the class] at the beginning of the semester that I did reserve the right to not take whatever their recommendation would be," Taber told NPR's Jacki Lyden.

But he didn't have to worry. Taber's students decided to let him keep his kidney, although the decision was conflicted.  

"It was very clear that they believed that this would be a very good thing to do; an excellent thing to do, going above and beyond in all the usual sorts of ways we would talk about such charitable actions," Taber says. "But they felt uneasy making that recommendation to somebody they know — namely, me."

Sure, they waffled a little, but in the end the students received an A on their assignment and a life lesson in making tough choices that affect people they know. And Taber gets to keep his kidney — at least for now. He may revisit the question, possibly posing it anew to a fresh classroom of students in the future.

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Ethics class decides fate of teacher's kidney
Professor turns personal kidney donation decision into final assignment for students.