Classy: Kidney donor wants it back in divorce

Divorces usually bring out the worst in people, but usually they take the Shakespearean “pound of flesh” more figuratively than Dr. Richard Batista of Long Island.  Not only does he want his personal possessions back, he wants the kidney he donated to his wife returned as well.  Not to worry, though — he’ll settle for $1.5 million in compensation if she won’t surrender it:

A Long Island surgeon embroiled in a nearly four-year divorce proceeding wants his estranged wife to return the kidney he donated to her, although he says he’ll settle for $1.5 million in compensation.

Dr. Richard Batista, a surgeon at Nassau University Medical Center, told reporters at his lawyer’s Long Island office Wednesday that he decided to go public with his demand for kidney compensation because he has grown frustrated with the negotiations with his estranged wife. …

He said he gave his kidney to Dawnell Batista, now 44, in June 2001. She filed for divorce in July 2005, although he claims she began having an extramarital affair 18 months to two years after receiving the kidney transplant, his attorney, Dominick Barbara said.

We have plenty of experience with transplants.  The First Mate has had four transplants (three kidneys and a pancreas), two of which came from live donors.  For the first, I planned on donating one of my kidneys, but a cadaver donor became available before I finished my tests.  During the planning, it was made clear that this gift was non-refundable and non-negotiable, and in fact I signed paperwork acknowledging that, as did the two friends who later did donate live kidneys to the FM over the last five years.

This is not much more than a publicity stunt, but I wonder if Dr. Batista realizes the kind of publicity he will get.  He wants to pressure his estranged wife into a better custody settlement and is using the threat of the $1.5 million demand to get it.  I’m not sure that this mercenary treatment of his generous life-saving donation will reflect well on him as a parent; it certainly doesn’t reflect well on him as a surgeon.  I’d bet it won’t endear him to his colleagues, either.

It’s tough enough to get people to become organ donors without making it into a potential custody issue in divorces.  The doctor should know this already, but like people caught in the vise grip of ugly divorces, he seems to lack the proper perspective.  Hopefully, that will be short-lived.