organ divorce, kidney divorce, selling organs

NY Man Demands Compensation for Kidney in Divorce Settlement

January 08, 2009 02:01 PM
by Denis Cummings
The request is certain to be rejected by courts because the buying and selling of organs is illegal, though some are arguing for a legal organ market to be established.

Man Wants Repayment for Kidney

Dr. Richard Batista, a Long Island surgeon, is demanding in divorce proceedings that his wife return the kidney he donated to her or pay him $1.5 million in compensation. “In theory, we are asking for the return of the kidney,” said Dominic Barbara, Dr. Batista’s lawyer. “Of course, he wouldn’t really ask for that, but the value of it.”

Batista donated the kidney in 2001; he alleges that 18 months to two years later, his wife Dawnell began having an affair with her personal therapist. In 2005, the two began their divorce proceeding, which has become bitter as it’s dragged on for three and a half years.

Dr. Batista’s case has virtually no chance of succeeding. “Medical ethicists agreed that the case is a nonstarter,” writes Newsday, because organs cannot be bought or sold in the United States. “It’s illegal for an organ to be exchanged for anything of value,” Georgetown University medical ethicist Robert Veatch told the paper.

Barbara admitted in a press conference that the demand was made primarily for publicity. “The main reason the doctor is doing this is because of how he’s been treated in this case,” he said. “Had she treated him right, he would not be here today asking for the value or attempting really to put the public eye on his matrimonial case.”

Opinion & Analysis: Legalizing the sale of organs

There is an international black market for organs that flourishes in many Third World countries. The buying and selling of organs in the United States is banned under the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act, and medical organizations are united in their opposition to it. There are, however, some doctors and ethicists who argue that a legal, regulated organ market would help save lives.

Presently, there are far more people in need of a kidney transplant than there are kidneys available. “In the United States, around 73,000 people are on waiting lists to receive a kidney. Yet 4,000 die every year before the lifesaving organ is available,” writes the Harvard University Gazette. “Worldwide, about 66,000 kidney transplants are performed annually. By far, that’s too slow a rate to help an estimated 1 million people who have end-stage renal disease.”

Advocates of legal organ selling say that a financial incentive would increase the number of organ donations by healthy individuals or the families of the deceased. Writing in a 2005 edition of Kidney International, Drs. Eli and Amy Friedman say that as many as 100,000 people could be saved annually by introducing a regulated kidney market in the U.S.

“It should be noted that in the United States we already have robust markets for blood, semen, human eggs, and surrogate wombs,” writes libertarian journal Reason. “Extending markets to include non-vital solid organs such as kidneys and pieces of liver, which can be obtained with reasonable safety from living donors, is not such a stretch.”

However, many doctors object to an organ market because it may result in the poor being exploited. “Even in a regulated, government-run version of transplant tourism, ‘unethical realities’ lead to exploitation of the poor and the vulnerable,” argued Harvard Medical School professor Francis L. Delmonico at a Harvard symposium on the issue.

Many poor people in the Third World have been exploited by the organ black market; in India, some 500 low-paid laborers forcibly had their kidneys extracted by a medical team from a hospital. Some of the victims received $1,275 for their kidneys, although reports show that the recipients of the organs paid up to 20 times that amount.

In the Philippines, which is famous for its organ market, the government instituted a law in April designed to impede the sale of organs. The law makes travel to the country to receive an organ from a non-relative a crime punishable by a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

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