MINEOLA, NY — The next time you hear somebody brag that their spouse is going to lose an arm and a leg in the divorce, consider this: maybe they mean it literally. In a current divorce case in upstate New York, a doctor is suing to get his kidney back — or at least, its monetary value.
Dr. Richard Batista, who is divorcing his wife of 18 years, reportedly saved her life by donating one of his kidneys to her in an operation in June 2001. Now, he is demanding to receive either his kidney or its estimated worth of $1.5 million in their divorce settlement.
His wife, 44-year-old Dawnell Batista, filed for divorce in July 2005. The couple has three children, ranging in age from eight to 14.
“My first priority was to save her life. The second bonus was to turn the marriage around,” Dr. Batista, who hails from Ronkonkoma, New York, said to reporters at a Garden City press conference. He claimed that the marriage was under severe strain at the time of the transplant because of the stress over Dawnell Batista’s medical problems.
Dr. Batista, now 49, donated his own kidney after his wife had had two failed transplants. The operation was conducted at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
Fortunately for Dawnell Batista, most experts seem to agree that her soon-to-be-ex-husband doesn’t have much of a case.
“It’s illegal for an organ to be exchanged for anything of value,” Robert Veatch, a medical ethicist from the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, told the Guardian. “It’s her kidney now, and… taking the kidney out would mean she would have to go on dialysis or it would kill her.”
In addition, Veatch pointed out, organ donations legally are considered gifts in the United States. “When you give something, you can’t get it back,” he added.
Arthur Caplan, who works at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, told the Guardian: “There’s nothing later in terms of compensation if you regret your gift.” He also said that no court could force anybody to have such an operation to “reverse” a donation and that no reputable surgeon would do such a thing anyway, calling Dr. Batista’s chances of winning the lawsuit “somewhere between impossible and completely impossible.”
The Supreme Court in Mineola currently is hearing the case.
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