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Husband Wants Kidney Back


Many divorces turn acrimonious, but a New York divorce has turned potentially life-threatening. But a new litmus test has emerged for real acrimony: has your soon-to-be ex asked for a donated organ back? Only then do you know you are in a truly deadly divorce!

According to Newsday, a New York surgeon, Richard Batista, is asking his wife, Dawnell Batista, for the kidney he gave her in 2001 back, or if she can’t live without it (ha ha)–for $1.5 million in exchange for his regret over the gift.

It occurs to me that husbands and wives who are divorcing often don’t get to ask for other large, costly, or otherwise meaningful or significant gifts that they give to their spouse while they are married back just because they aren’t in love or don’t wish to be married anymore. From engagement or wedding rings to Christmas presents, gifts stay with the recipient in most cases.

Moreover, it’s hard to imagine ex-ish spouses asking for other medical “gifts” back. I can just hear it now: “Hey hon, I really loved you when I bought you that rhinoplasty, but now you don’t deserve to have a perfect nose anymore, so I want it back. And if I can’t I have it, I want $50 grand.” Divorce lawyers will gather over martinis and begin drawing medical gift price lists that their clients, who can’t really take back breast augmentations and liposuctions, will say that they deserve their “investments in their spouse” back and conjure up ridiculous figures for them above and beyond what the actual procedures cost.

Never mind that asking for a kidney back would put Dawnell Batista on a dialysis machine and endanger her health while she cares for three children, never mind that Richard Batista voluntarily gave her the kidney seven years ago, never mind that we don’t sell kidneys in the United States.

Here’s my diagnosis of the case: divorce-induced insanity on the part of client and attorney. No reasonable client or attorney would propose asking for a bodily organ or $1.5 million if desperation weren’t involved.

Surely no judge or jury is going to force Dawnell Batista to give up her kidney–but will she be forced to pay her husband for some pain and suffering for “losing” a kidney he voluntarily gave? It’s hard to imagine. Oddly, if she does pay, she’ll probably get paid her own money right back in child support or alimony–getting her kidney money right back.

Summer Johnson, PhD

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