Bitter Divorce

A prominent Long Island, New York, vascular surgeon, Richard Batista, saved his wife’s life several years ago with the gift of his own kidney to save her life. Now that the couple is embattled in a bitter divorce, Dr. Richard Batista has issued an ultimatum, effectively asking for his kidney back or $1.5 million. Granted, no judge in his or her right mind would order Mrs. Batista to return the body organ, so what really is at stake here is whether the kidney, or the value of the kidney, should be factored into the divorce settlement. According to the New York Daily News, Dr. Richard Batista lovingly and quite willingly gave his wife, Dawnell, his kidney, but says that it was done to save her life and possibly their marriage.
When is a gift no longer a gift? The great kidney debate.

The media are having a field day with the news of this New York man demanding his kidney’s worth back from his estranged wife. Dr. Batista and his wife, Dawnell, have been married since 1990 and during those years of marriage, Mrs. Batista bore three children, now aged 14, 11 and 8. Mrs. Batista’s kidney transplant occurred in 2001, nearly 8 years ago. Pregnancy in particular is very hard on a woman’s kidneys, and based on the timeline, Mrs. Batista was likely suffering from some sort of kidney problems during her pregnancy with her last child. One could argue that Dr. Batista contributed to the strain on Mrs. Batista’s kidneys because she was pregnant with his child. Faced with losing his wife, Dr. Batista chose to give the gift of life, that is, donate one of his own kidneys, to his wife. Should Mrs. Batista then counter-sue the good doctor to establish an apportioned value of the kidney due to Dr. Batista’s role in the decline of her kidney function? Or once given, shouldn’t a gift be a gift with no strings attached? The Batistas decided, as a married couple, to skip waiting on the 6,000 deep list donor list and instead proceed on their own, with Mr. Batista providing his wife with a kidney.

Remind me not to become estranged from my parents!

While one can appreciate the betrayal that Dr. Batista feels at losing his wife due to her alleged cheating and subsequent divorce filing, placing a value on a vital human organ in this case is not a territory that courts want to wander into in my opinion. Should the court side with Dr. Batista, a precedent would be set which would possibly discourage family members from donating body organs to their needy relative. If I were to become estranged from my parents, could I expect to be slapped with a multi-million dollar suit asking me to compensate them for their gift of life? After all, I wouldn’t be here without either of them, which is Dr. Batista’s position with regard to his wife.

Is the demand for 1.5 Million for a kidney all about the kids?

The Daily News story outlines Dr. Batista’s frustration over Mrs. Batista’s alleged blockage of his visitation with their three children. Courts have a process to resolve these matters, involving litigation and obtaining enforceable court orders regarding custody and visitation. Custody arrangements can be worked out and placed on a court order, whereby the opposing party can be penalized for violating a custody order, including having to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees with regard to representation and costs of enforcing an order. Rather than ask for 1.5 Million for his kidney, Dr. Batista should instead aggressively seek the court’s help in obtaining or enforcing a child custody order.


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