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Doctor interested in seeing kids not kidney, lawyer says

  • Story Highlights
  • New York doctor, soon-to-be-ex-wife fighting over kidney he gave her in 2001
  • Doctor tells CNN's Larry King "real issue" is to get his children back
  • Doctor says he hopes case will not deter organ donation
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(CNN) -- It's not exactly the war of the roses, but a New York couple is taking a divorce case to a new level.

Dr. Richard Batista (left) and his attorney, Dominick Barbara, says the divorce case is not just about a kidney.

Dr. Richard Batista (left) and his attorney, Dominick Barbara, says the divorce case is not just about a kidney.

Dr. Richard Batista and his wife, Dawnell, are fighting over a kidney he gave her. Batista and his attorney, Dominick Barbara, appeared on CNN's Larry King Live on Wednesday to discuss the case and why he filed a lawsuit.

The following is an edited version of the interview.

Larry King: When did the wife need the kidney?

Richard Batista: Well, she needed three of them. The one that I donated was back in 2001.

King: Who else donated?

Batista: Her father donated the first kidney in -- well, I'm going to go back -- when she was 13 years old. The second kidney she needed after two years of our marriage and that was back in 1992. Thereafter, we had three children, prompting the third kidney transplant, which took place in 2001.

King: How is she doing now? Do you know?

Batista: To the best of my knowledge, I understand that her kidney is doing better than mine.

King: When did the marriage go bad?

Batista: It's hard to say, but it was not on a good foundation around the time of the third transplant.

King: What's it like, by the way, to donate a kidney?

Batista: Well, it is probably the most wonderful feeling that you can possibly ever imagine on this planet.

King: Is the surgery difficult?

Batista: The surgery, for me, was performed arthroscopically, so I have several port incisions, with a separate hand incision to allow for the kidney to be extracted. The surgery discomfort and pain itself was not all that horrendous, very tolerable. I was on my feet the following day.

King: What was the cause of the divorce?

Batista: Well, she has her allegations.

King: What were yours?

Batista: Infidelity. That's my reason.

Dominick Barbara: Actually, Larry, in the state of New York, it's one of the grounds for divorce. When the show started, you mentioned the demand for the kidney or the value. Really, that's not what's going on. We use that as an example of what the doctor wants.

What the doctor wants is, A) health to be taken into consideration in the division of the assets, whether or not she'd be entitled to maintenance or not. But most of all, (what's) being done so he can be part of the children's lives. That's what really this case is all about.

King: He's not allowed to be part of their lives now?

Batista: It is my belief that the influence that the children are under, from the household, has put such a pressure on them that they no longer have visitation time with me, despite my most strongest efforts, both through phone call attempts through their mother and through the court system.

King: What is he going to do with a kidney back?

Barbara: He doesn't want the kidney. Remember, this is a God-like act when one gives a kidney. You can certainly understand that. No, what he wants the court to do is take into consideration what he's done, what a wonderful thing it is he's done and some understanding from the court.

You know, it's so strange; here he does this, and when he says he's allowed to see his children, well, legally he is, but these children have been so alienated from him.

By the way, prior to the divorce, you should know that this was a 24/7 dad. The children loved him dearly. He's a broken-hearted man from that. Before we started the litigation, we thought very deeply how it's going to affect everyone. It was out of desperation that he did it.

King: Dr. Batista, you think this might affect other people donating kidneys?

Batista: I hope, at the very least, first of all, I have to say that the real issue here is for me to get my children back.

Aside from that, to draw light to the lack of kidney availability, to the number of poor and dying patients across the country who are yearning to live. I hope, and it's my prayer, that this fallout will help enlighten those people who have any question about organ donation come forward, because there are so many people who are dying as a result of not having an organ.

King: In view of how bitter this has gotten, Dr. Batista, if you had to do it over again, would you not donate it?

Batista: Without hesitation, I would give another kidney.

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