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Court rejects LI doctor's bid over ex-wife's kidney

A surgeon who once donated a kidney to his wife won't get the kidney back - or money for it - as part of the couple's divorce settlement, a court decision said.

Dr. Richard Batista, 49, of Ronkonkoma, made headlines last month when he demanded that his estranged wife, Dawnell Batista, 44, of Massapequa either return his kidney or give him $1.5 million.

But in a decision released Wednesday, State Supreme Court marital referee Jeffrey Grob said it's not legal to put a monetary value on a human organ - and may even "expose the defendant to criminal prosecution."

Richard Batista's lawyer, Dominic Barbara of Garden City, said he had "no idea what he (the referee) was talking about," with regard to criminal prosecution.

Eric Phillips, a spokesman for the Nassau district attorney's office, said only that his office has not received a complaint in the case.

Dawnell Batista's lawyer, Douglas Rothkopf of Garden City, said unless Richard Batista appeals the decision, this means that the value of the kidney will no longer be an issue in the case.

"This is a significant decision that clearly finds that human organs are not commodities that can be divided as property in a divorce," he said.

Although the referee ruled against his client, Barbara called the decision a "complete victory." He cited a line later in the decision, in which Grob says that while the kidney cannot be assigned monetary value, Richard Batista's "sacrifices, magnanimity and devotion" can be taken into account in settling the case.

"The court recognized that the gift of the kidney will be taken into consideration in the distribution of assets and maintenance," Barbara said.

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