An Illinois man accused of accepting $37,500 from his Tampa brother and then refusing to donate bone marrow to him says the money was a loan that had nothing to do with the transplant.
Michael Dreier, 50, a perfect match for his brother David Dreier, 47, said he would have helped if he could but claims a worsening medical condition - which he declined to disclose - has precluded him from donating marrow.
"This isn't about being afraid," Michael said. "I don't qualify because of a serious medical condition."
David Dreier, a Tampa car salesman who has battled chronic lymphocytic leukemia for five years, filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County Circuit Court last week accusing Michael of civil theft, breaking a promise and unjust enrichment. The lawsuit claims Michael agreed to donate if David gave him $40,000 for mounting debt. It says he changed his mind after receiving the money and ignored demands to return it.
In an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times, Michael disputed David's claims and said the money was for a personal loan that he plans to pay back "in full in an expedient manner." Michael says his brother told him, "Pay me back whenever you can."
"If he feels a lawsuit is now necessary, that is his prerogative," Michael said. "But linking the personal loan to selling marrow is false. Misconstruing the facts for sensationalism or sympathy is an injustice."
The Times attempted to reach Michael Dreier several times before publishing a story about the lawsuit Saturday. He defended himself in a written statement late Tuesday, saying the story was one-sided and made him out be "some kind of cold-hearted monster."
Michael said David wanted him to sign a waiver, agreeing to donate at his own risk. Michael, who lives in Tinley Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, said he has children and a "seriously ill" wife who depend on his income and medical insurance.
"I could not accept that risk in good (conscience)," Michael said. "I did not make David ill, and I am not to blame for his illness."
He said he encouraged David to consider obtaining marrow from a national donor registry or from their brother Jack, 69, of Long Island, N.Y., who was also a perfect match.
David told the Times that Jack initially declined because he was concerned about the risk given his age. But in March, Jack overcame his fears and donated. David received the transplant last month but said his recovery thus far has been bumpy.
Doctors would have preferred to have use marrow from Michael, because he's younger, David said.
Their sister, Sandra Dreier-Starr, 65, of Anaheim Hills, Calif., said the whole ordeal has caused the family to fall apart. She blames their father's November 2007 death on the rift created initially when neither Jack nor Michael stepped forward to help David.
"My dad died of a heart attack over a year ago, over the stress of his two sons not helping his son who was dying," said Dreier-Starr, who wasn't a match.
She said she's written for help several times to Dr. Phil McGraw, the psychologist with a syndicated television show.
She said she hounded her brothers to help and hasn't spoken with Michael in two years. And she questions his claim of illness.
"If you're so sick, I'd like to talk to your doctor," is her message to him. "He doesn't have to tell me what's wrong with you. He just has to tell me you're too sick to help your brother David."
David also questions Michael's response.
"If he knew he had this Wizard of Oz disease, this magical disease that he won't disclose to anybody, then why did he take the money?" David said. "And to say I loaned him the money, then, gee, it's a coincidence that he needed money and I needed a transplant."
Michael characterized David as a shrewd car salesman who is seeking sympathy. He said David is wasting time and not cherishing the second chance at life he was granted.
"Dave and I were very close growing up, and it really hurts to see the relationship in the state it's in," Michael said, noting that he still loves his brother.
David said Michael never called while he was in the hospital.
"I don't know what kind of love that is," David said.
Kevin Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3433.