Man's request for kidney back from wife is shameful, U of M bioethics professor says


A University of Minnesota Medical Center kidney transplant is now getting national attention as the man who donated his kidney to his wife is now asking for it back.

The New York man who donated one of his kidneys to his wife is now asking for her to return it in their divorce settlement. Well, what he really seems to want is what he claims is the value of his kidney, $1.5 million. She cheated after all and therefore doesn't deserve to benefit from his gift of life.

While it's a pretty impressive publicity stunt, the case won't be going anywhere. The Transplant Center at the U of M declined to comment on the case, but bioethics professor Steven Miles spoke to City Pages about the ethical dilemmas of live-donor organ donation. This is the first case he's seen like this, which he says is a divorce settlement spun out of control.

While the man's main purpose seems to be a hefty $1.5 million settlement for the kidney donation, his lawyer specifically mentions a physical return of the kidney. Richard Batista's lawyer, Dominic Barbara, said they had an expert determine the value of the kidney which includes any benefits his wife received when she was healthy again.

Miles says the man's case "simply won't stand. I am amazed his attorney is letting him get away with it."

While the request to return a body part grabs people's interest, this case is more about a messy divorce. "This is about a grieving husband who is emotionally having a great deal of difficultly coping," he said.

Organ donation in the United States is very structured despite worldwide markets for the sale of organs. "The entire language of organ donation in the United States is very clear," Miles says. "The word donation means strictly a gifting relationship and certainly everyone understands it is irreversible."

The sale and purchase of organs in the United States is illegal and putting a monetary value on a donation is impossible. "In no way can she purchase it from him or is it direct property of the marriage," he says. "We don't share organs to create a business partnership."

Oh, and in case you forgot... Having a property interest in a living person ended, you know, when we abolished slavery in the United States.

But what if we could sell our body parts? How did this guy figure out the value of this gift to his wife? "The idea that this guy's organ is worth $1.5 million suggests it appreciated while it was in her or it was worth 2.5 million and depreciated," Miles says.

And what if this man actually figures out a way to win this case? Where will our country go next? Well, it's a slimy slimy slope.

Miles suggests that blood donors could try to make a property claim on someone who received their blood in a live-saving event. The donor could claim that since they saved the person's life, they deserve a cut of any income they make thereafter due to their generous gift.