No Kidney for Doctor
Posted by shadmia on February 27, 2009
In a ruling that reasserts some logic to a case that seemed to have strayed into the realm of the ridiculous, Suffolk County Special Referee Jeffrey Grob rejected doctor Dr. Richard J. Batista’s request that his estranged wife, Dawnell C. Batista, either return the kidney (or $1.5 million for the kidney) he donated to her while they were still married. The doctor was trying to include the value of the kidney as part of the marital assets to be considered in the divorce proceedings.
“At its core, the defendant’s claim inappropriately equates human organs with commodities,” Suffolk County Special Referee Jeffrey Grob declared in a 10-page ruling. “While the term ‘marital property’ is elastic and expansive … its reach, in this court’s view, does not stretch into the ethers and embrace … human tissues or organs,” Grob wrote.
The Special Referee also cautioned that Dr. Batista could leave himself open to criminal prosecution for attempting to put monetary value on a human organ. Citing Public Health Law §4307, which makes it a crime for “any person to knowingly acquire … for valuable consideration any human organ for use in human transplantation.”
The four-year-old divorce case between vascular surgeon Richard J. Batista Jr. and his wife, Dawnell C. Batista, gained worldwide notoriety in January when Dr. Batista and his attorney, Garden City, N.Y.’s Dominick Barbara, held a press conference announcing their intentions to seek compensation for the organ. Barbara petitioned the court for a stay to produce an expert who could testify as to the value of the organ. Click here for more details on this case.
However in the ruling Referee Jeffrey Grob wrote in Batista v. Batista, Jr., 201931/05 that the doctor’s sacrifice could be taken into account:
“That the defendant may not proffer the economic proof he seeks to adduce, however, does not suggest that the sacrifices, magnanimity and devotion, which arguably and logically attend, are beyond the pale or lack relevancy.”
Dr. Richard Batista’s lawyer, Dominick Barbara, called the ruling a “complete victory” for his client, as such proof would be taken into account in deciding the remaining issues at trial, he said.
The decision was “not a surprise to any right-thinking person,” said Douglas R. Rothkopf, Dawnell Batista’s attorney, in an interview, lauding the ruling as “an excellent one.” Rothkopf declined to comment further, only saying that the “facts will speak for themselves” at the upcoming divorce trial, also in front of Jeffrey Grob. The issues will be limited to division of the marital assets, maintenance and child support.