Commentary: An organ grinder of a divorce

If you're a fan of the blues – and in today's world, who isn't? – then you've no doubt heard of blues master Z.Z. Hill.

In one of the great lyrics of rhythm & blues history, the late philosopher Hill uttered these unforgettable words:

Wop doo wop/ baby I'd chop

Off my right arm for your love.

Shakespearean, no?

Dr. Richard Batista of Long Island, N.Y., didn't chop off his right arm for his ailing wife, but he did something many would consider equally noble: He gave up a kidney to her when she needed one in 2001.

How did Dawnell Batista repay this remarkably selfless expression of his love?

According to Dr. Batista and his attorney, she repaid him by having an affair with her physical therapist and filing for divorce.

She also, they claim, locked him out of their million-dollar mansion and denied him access to their three children.


Divorces, even bitter ones, are not unusual, but the contretemps between the surgeon and his wife has reached a level of acrimony worthy of front-page coverage. (And even if it isn't worthy of it, it's receiving it nonetheless.)

Batista is demanding the return of his kidney or, barring that, $1.3 million to salve the wound left by what he alleges is his wife's betrayal.

The New York Post reported that Dr. Batista, who appears in newspaper pictures and on television wearing a suitably hangdog expression, was dumped after his wife started seeing the physical therapist she met in 2003.

"I saved her life and then to be betrayed like this is unfathomable. It's incomprehensible," he said. "She engaged in an extramarital affair and refused to go to marital counselling and reconciliation. She slapped me with divorce papers in the operating room while I was trying to save another patient's life."

That's his story, anyway. There are two sides to every story, just as there are – or used to be – two kidneys in each body.

To read the complete column, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.