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Md. philosophy class gets a real-world question: Should professor give a kidney?

St. Mary's philosophy professor Michael Taber offered his class an unusual challenge.
St. Mary's philosophy professor Michael Taber offered his class an unusual challenge. (Matt McClain - For the Post)

On Dec. 9, he e-mailed the class: "Last night I read your Project Kidney paper, and I [was] impressed with its thoughtfulness. Today I re-read it, and I am impressed with its cowardice."

He raised several objections and questioned why they were squeamish about giving a recommendation. The next afternoon, the class gathered again.

One student stressed that all they could do was provide the professor with information to make his own decision. Another drew a diagram on the chalkboard to explain that the paper was written for Taber's "spectator self" and not for his "personal self."

"I don't think any of us could say, 'Go take your kidney out today,' and then you die on the operating table," Cosenze said. Later in the class, the student asked: "What's so compelling about this . . . that you are willing to take the risk?"

"We should help each other out whenever possible," Taber responded. He doesn't have billions of dollars to donate, he said, but is "packing an extra kidney" that could improve the quality of life for someone else.

The class ended. The semester ended. Taber still has not decided what to do.

The seminar answered many questions for Taber but raised another: If he does donate a kidney, how many of his students will be disappointed?


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