March 2, 2024

The case of the divorced kidney

New York doctor wants kidney back in divorce settlement

Dr Richard Batista in a reflective moodHere’s a great bioethics script for Hollywood: New York surgeon marries a nurse in lavish wedding. Three beautiful daughters. Tragedy strikes. Wife falls ill with kidney disease and two transplants fail. Marriage totters. But as anguished husband nurses ailing wife, he discovers that he is 1 in 700,000 -–a matching spouse. Treading clouds of blissful altruism underfoot, he donates kidney. Wife has new lease on life — enrols for masters in nursing and takes up karate.

Happily ever after? No way, José. This is Long Island. An injury in trying out for a black belt sends wife to a therapist. They have an affair. Hubby is devastated. "There’s no deeper pain you can ever express than to be betrayed by the person you devoted your life to," he tells media. She files for divorce. She takes the kids. She denies access. In short, things get ugly.

So ugly, in fact, that he demands kidney back. Or US$1.5 million in damages. Whatever. Thereby creating a unique script for some socially aware director. It’s a scenario dark enough for the Coen brothers. Or how about Wes Craven?

Unfortunately, it is not a script, but the sad true saga of Richard Batista, a surgeon at Nassau University Medical Center, and his wife Dawnell. It became public at a press conference this week. Does he have a case? No, say all the bioethics experts. The organ has no value because trading in organs is banned in the US. Furthermore, gifts are gifts; they are non-refundable. "It’s her kidney now and… taking the kidney out would mean she would have to go on dialysis or it would kill her," says Robert Veatch, a medical ethicist at Georgetown University.

In fact, Dr Batista’s claim seems to be a stunt aimed at drawing attention to his case. His lawyer says that the figure of $1.5 million represents damages, including how much money she made as a result of being able to continue working and not having to go on dialysis. ~ Newsday, Jan 8; Daily News, Jan 8

3 thoughts on “The case of the divorced kidney

  1. I heard Dominic Barbara, the husband’s divorce lawyer, discuss this case on the radio. It seems ridiculous at first that he sued the woman, but when you think about it…it’s sort of fair. What if this woman had the intent to divorce him when she got the kidney, and hit that intention to induce him into donating it? And what if his donation of the kidney wasn’t just an act of pure altruism, but price he was willing to pay to secure the life of his life-partner, whom he did not know was planning to leave him?

  2. The poor guy. He has been done in by his nasty ex-wife, who took his genuine love, his children,and his kidney!! Calling this a “stunt” is demeaning to fathers everywhere, esp. those who have been done the usual dirty deal courts inflict on good fathers.

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