By John Hooper In Madrid A Question Left Hanging By John Cleese-- What Is The Value Of A Dead Parrot?

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By John Hooper in Madrid

A question left hanging by John Cleese-- what is the value of a dead parrot?--
has finally been resolved by a Barcelona judge. His honour Antonio Nunio
de la Rosa has ruled that a dead parrot is worth 150,000 pesetas ($815).

He was awarding damages to Maria del Carmen Dotras, whose parrot (male,
green) died, passed away, turned moribund, ceased to exist, and, in short,
became defunct two years ago in the city's Vall d'Hebron hospital. Ms. Dotras,
who lives with her mother, had owned the bird for 23 years, since she was 12.

Her family doctor suspected the parrot might be the cause of an allergy
her mother had developed. He wanted it to have a blood test, and told her
it would be better done by a doctor than a vet. This proved not to be the

According to Ms. Dotras, the doctors virtually suffocated the bird by
putting a towel over its head, and took out six times as much blood as they
were supposed to. Eventually, a consultant ordered it to be put out of its

Ms. Dotras put the dead bird in the freezer, to facilitate an autopsy. In
fact, the deep freezing made it impossible to determine the cause of death.

But as Judge Nunio de la Rosa observed in judgement-- passages of which might
have come from a Monty Python script: "The parrot has been deceased, and
cannot be revived." He decided the hospital authorities and the doctor
responsible should pay the sum equivalent to a new bird. He dismissed
Ms. Dotra's claim for damages of one million pesetas ($5,435). This had been
based, in part, on th argument that her parrot could talk.

Drawing a fine distinction that will be of assistance in future, similar
cases, the judge ruled that it merely "articulated sounds similar to those
of people." "If the parrot had been able to talk," he reasoned, "it would
have complained."