Reclaiming Body Parts: Taking Back Gifts?

DivorceBattle.jpg Recently, a Long Island doctor donated his kidney to his wife to save her life. Eight years and one extra-marital affair later, the doctor demanded the return of his kidney or $1.5million in compensation in their divorce lawsuit. His claims are presuming that his kidney will always be his property, and that this property was “on loan” to his wife.

In California, a man attempted to cut out the breast implants he bought for his ex-girlfriend. He asserts that he was trying to recover what rightfully belonged to him, since he paid for the augmentation. The ex-girlfriend suffered six stab wounds; the scorned lover is being prosecuted for attempted murder.

I published an article about compensating people who contribute body parts for the advancement of science and medicine, entitled Stealing What’s Free: Exploring Compensation to Body Parts Sources for Their Contribution to Profitable Biomedical Research. In general, these contributions are considered gifts: the source does not get compensated, and does not get the body parts back. In analyzing the two headline-making stories above, I would fathom a guess that these guys are out of luck. The intent of donating the kidney and funding the breast augmentation was to give a gift–once given, it can’t be taken back. From the reports I’ve read, I would be shocked if a court ordered these women to undergo surgery to return the gifts.