Los Angeles, CA–I discussed the Batista divorce controversy on Fox & Friends on Friday. This is the case where Dr. Richard Batista, a prominent New York surgeon, donated a kidney to save his wife’s life back in 2001 and is now asking for compensation for the kidney as part of their divorce settlement. He claims she cheated on him after the donation.
I told Fox host Steve Doocy that, assuming Batista is telling the truth, I support him. On one hand, I hate to see even more divorce-related rancor. However, according to Batista, his ex-wife has been preventing him from exercising his agreed-upon visitation with the couple’s three children. Batista says he is making the kidney demand as a way to get publicity and force his ex to allow him back into his children’s lives. I made the point that interference with parenting time (aka “visitation”) is a major problem for divorced fathers.
Beyond the issue with Batista’s children, it seems fair enough to me that if they are going to be dividing up property in a divorce, his gift of a kidney to her, valued at around $1.5 million, should be considered in the settlement.
While I was in the Fox Green room waiting to go on, I heard Ducey mention that later on they were going to have an interview with Batista’s former sister-in-law. I assume the interview would consist of denying Batista’s claims and vilifying Batista, with little or no attention paid to the fact that Batista saved his wife’s life. I’d be happy to be wrong — if anyone was watching Fox on Friday and knows what the sister-in-law said, please let me know.
Some of the ex-wife’s defenders have been saying that Batista doesn’t need two kidneys anyway and that the transplant was minor surgery. I’m no medical expert, but I’m not sure I agree. One, you never know when in Batista’s life he might need the kidney. Two, my general opinion of “minor surgery” is that of oft-injured former NBA basketball player Bill Walton — “minor surgery is when they do it on someone else.”
From Estranged husband wants his donated kidney back (Newsday, 1/8/09):
When Dr. Richard Batista’s wife needed a kidney, he gave her one of his. And now that Dawnell Batista has filed for a divorce, he says he wants it back.
He knows he won’t get the kidney, but his attorney, Dominic Barbara of Garden City, said yesterday that his client would take $1.5 million – which, he said, reflects in part the value of the kidney transplant.
Richard Batista is seeking the kidney because he claimed he later found his wife was having an affair.
Dawnell Batista’s attorney, Douglas Rothkopf of Garden City, would not address specifics, saying only, “The facts will speak for themselves and they’re not as represented by Dr. Batista”…
Barbara said his client isn’t really looking for Dawnell Batista to give back her kidney. “Does he really want the kidney back? Of course not,” he said. Batista said his aim instead was to draw attention to her not allowing him agreed-upon visitation with the couple’s three children, ages 14, 11 and 8.
Batista, 49, of Ronkonkoma, said he donated his kidney to his wife in June 2001, after she had undergone two other failed transplants when her kidneys ceased working.
“My first priority was to save her life,” Batista said at a news conference in Garden City. “The second bonus was to turn the marriage around.”
Batista, a surgeon at Nassau University Medical Center since 1992, said the marriage had been shaky because of his wife’s illness.
Initially, Batista said he was happy with his gift of life: “I was walking on a cloud. I did the right thing for her and to this day I would do it again.”
Dawnell Batista, a nurse, filed for divorce in July 2005, and her husband countersued that same year. The grounds for the divorce were unclear yesterday. The demand for the kidney was introduced yesterday, Barbara said.
Barbara said the $1.5 million his client feels he’s entitled to reflects damages. “A price can’t be placed on a human organ but it does have value,” he said.
Caplan disagreed. “There’s nothing later [you can get] in terms of compensation if you regret your gift,” he said.