Give me back my kidney or pay the consequences

grasping

We’ve become inured to the spectacle of bitter public divorce battles over assets or children, but how about body parts?

Richard Batista is demanding, as part of a divorce settlement, that his estranged wife Dawnell return the kidney that he donated to her. This is something new, and the press has been busy analyzing the implications. Discussion has centered on the ethics of organ donation and the commodification of body parts. They are missing the point. This has nothing to do with ethics or money; it is about spousal abuse. Specifically, this is an example of the all too common phenomenon of abusive, controlling men trying to continue abusing and controlling the women who leave them.

There is neither ethical nor legal justification for demanding the kidney or compensation. An organ donation is a gift. We have specifically prohibited the selling of organs for just this reason. Ethically, we believe that the only acceptable reason for donating an organ to another person is altruism. You give the organ because you want the other person to get it. What happens after that is irrelevant. If you cannot sue to get your kidney back because you now have a medical need for it, you certainly do not have grounds to sue to get it back simply because you are angry with the recipient.

This case is not about the commodification of organs, either. No only do we prohibit the selling of organs, but we hold both the donor and recipient harmless in the action. The donor cannot sue the recipient for the costs associated with the donation, and the recipient cannot sue the donor if the donor had an undiagnosed medical problem that was transmitted with the organ.

Experts in both law and medical ethics are in agreement that there is no legal basis for Batista’s demand, and the chance that it will be granted is nil. So why did Batista do it? He did it for revenge.

Batista has publicly acknowledge that this is nothing more than a tactic. Batista’s lawyer, appearing with him on CNN, told Larry King:

…[Y]ou mentioned the demand for the kidney or the value. Really, that’s not what’s going on. We use that as an example of what the doctor wants.

What the doctor wants is, A) health to be taken into consideration in the division of the assets, whether or not she’d be entitled to maintenance or not. But most of all, (what’s) being done so he can be part of the children’s lives. That’s what really this case is all about…

He doesn’t want the kidney… No, what he wants the court to do is take into consideration what he’s done, what a wonderful thing it is he’s done and some understanding from the court.

You know, it’s so strange; here he does this, and when he says he’s allowed to see his children, well, legally he is, but these children have been so alienated from him.

…It was out of desperation that he did it.

No doubt he was desperate … desperate to control the woman who was trying to extricate herself from his control.

Batista expresses awareness of the tawdriness of his demand, and insists that there is an additional, selfless, motivation:

… to draw light to the lack of kidney availability, to the number of poor and dying patients across the country who are yearning to live. I hope, and it’s my prayer, that this fallout will help enlighten those people who have any question about organ donation come forward, because there are so many people who are dying as a result of not having an organ.

Oh, sure. He wanted to encourage people to donate organs by suing to get back the organ he donated.

Dawnell Batista has not spoken to the press. According to the facts of the case, though, it would be difficult to find someone more sympathetic. The kidney that Bautista gave her was actually her third transplant. Two previous transplants, from other family members, had eventually stopped working. She has undergone a double mastectomy. Nonetheless, her husband thought that she had time to conduct an affair with her personal trainer (an allegation that she denies), going so far as to examine her lingerie for “evidence” that she was lying.

Richard Batista, who claims to be doing this for his kids, seems to have little consideration for them. According to the children’s court appointed guardian:

“The children are distressed and embarrassed… It’s hard for them to go to school. They believe their teachers and friends know everything that is going on. The family’s life is in the public now.”

When Batista demanded that his estranged wife be jailed for not letting him see his children, the guardian pointed out that he did have visitation rights with his children “as long as nothing derogatory was said about their mother,” he claimed that they had been turned against him.

Almost certainly, Mrs. Batista has negative feelings toward her estranged husband, but as for turning them against him, it sounds like Mr. Batista has done just fine on his own. A man who demands that a sick woman return a kidney donation or pay more than a million dollars, and then publicly acknowledges that it is merely a tactic, to retain control over assets and children should not be surprised that his children have turned against him. He shouldn’t be surprised if the public and the court turn against him as well.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    Good heavens. That is one ugly spectacle. Do you know what happened with the case?

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